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Northern Colorado hospitals take in several COVID-19 patients from Wyoming

Taking in some patients from out of state has been the process for some hospitals throughout the pandemic, but ICU beds are running low in northern Colorado.

DENVER — At a press conference Tuesday to address the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy spent extra time talking about the hospital capacity in Northern Colorado. 

"We do see that Larimer County's rates continue to be slightly elevated, above the state rate, but Weld County's rates are significantly higher," she said. 

Larimer County's Department of Health and Environment faced its third week of ICU occupancy levels at its main hospital systems – UCHealth and Banner Health to name a few.

As of Tuesday night, ICU utilization at usual care levels was at 103%, which is actually down nearly 3% compared to last week. 

Some patients being admitted from Wyoming may be causing the numbers to go up. 

"We know Wyoming residents can also be potentially hospitalized in northern Colorado – that's a common practice – we know that that does occur," Herlihy said. "And so that could be part of what we're seeing right now."

Credit: State of Colorado

According to a UCHealth spokesperson, over the past week, their hospitals in northern Colorado have averaged about 76 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 infections, and three of those have been from Wyoming.

"When UCHealth hospitals have the capacity and capability to accept transfers, all requests are evaluated based on the patient’s individual care needs," an email from the spokesperson read in part. "Hospital census levels change constantly, even on an hourly basis, and our hospitals make determinations based on current conditions and those of the transferring hospital. Because our hospitals are very busy and caring for near-record numbers of patients, we are accepting fewer out-of-state transfer requests."

As of Tuesday morning, UCHealth’s hospitals in Northern Colorado had been caring for 71 patients with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 infections, which includes 27 patients who required intensive care. 

At Banner Health, a spokesperson said they're running at or over normal capacity in their three hospitals in northern Colorado. 

As of Tuesday, they had fewer than five patients from other states out of about 220 patients hospitalized with them, according to a spokesperson. 

"We accept transfers from in our region and out of the area when we have the space and staff to accommodate them and according to the Combined Hospital Transfer Center protocols," an email from the spokesperson read in part. "This has been our process throughout the pandemic."

Credit: Luis de Leon

According to Wyoming state data, as reported by hospitals, some hospitals have more availability for ICU beds and ventilators than others. 

For example, at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie, Wyoming, there were five COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Tuesday, with two ICU beds in use out of five and two ventilators in use out of 12. 

Compare that to Cheyenne's Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and it shows three COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Tuesday, with five out of six ICU beds in use, but just one out of seven ventilators in use. 

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center had 33 COVID patients in the hospital as of Tuesday, with 21 out of 25 ICU adult beds in use, and 18 of 63 ventilators in use.