DENVER — Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said hospital capacity remains a large concern during an update Wednesday on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Dr. Alexis Burakoff, a medical epidemiologist at CDPHE, said there are signs many parts of the state is entering a plateau but warned that COVID rates remain high.
Case rates continue to be the highest among the 5 to 11 age group, but Burakoff said that rates are starting to decline among all age groups.
COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said that 1,576 were hospitalized due to COVID as of Nov. 23.
While that is below the state's overall peak in Dec. 2020 of 1,847, Bookman said hospitalization rates remain high.
Bookman said concern is being fueled by the lack of hospital beds available. There are currently 645 hospital beds available, significantly fewer than the 1,800 beds that were still available during the Dec. 2020 peak.
Bookman also said that staffing shortages and and patients requiring hospitalization due to delayed care are among factors contributing to the lack of available hospital beds.
"As we move into this holiday weekend knowing our hospitals are still in a very dangerous situation with the small amount of beds left, we really do want to make sure people are safe and careful this weekend," Bookman said. "While it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate in a way that we didn't get to last year, it is incredibly important to take care of ourselves and our families over this holiday weekend."
Nicole Comstock, CDPHE outbreak and field epidemiologist manager, provided some tips to help families gathering over the holiday weekend stay safe.
Tips included staying home if displaying COVID symptoms or testing positive, considering gatherings that are shorter and outside and keeping contact information incase there is a COVID exposure:
CDPHE Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France added a warning that the Thanksgiving holiday presents an opportunity for rates to spike again, and reiterated a recommendation that all Coloradans 18 and older should get a COVID vaccination booster shot.
In an effort to address demand for booster shots, France said expanded community vaccination sites are opening at the following locations:
- Chapel Hills Mall - 1710 Briar Gate Blvd., Colorado Springs
- Douglas County Fairgrounds - 500 Fairgrounds Rd., Castle Rock
- Pueblo Mall - 3201 Dillon Dr., Pueblo
Beginning Nov. 26, France said the sites will be able to provide up to 1,000 doses a day Friday through Sunday.
Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said on Tuesday that he is not considering a statewide order related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Polis also encouraged Coloradans to get vaccinated and to celebrate Thanksgiving in a way that minimizes risk to people who aren't vaccinated.
When asked about mask mandates, Polis said he supports cities and counties in whatever actions they take that are appropriate for their communities.
"We’ve taken a line here where we are supportive of our local communities in recognition that we have a very diverse state," Polis said.
In the Denver metro area, Denver, Adams, Arapahoe and Jefferson counties will require masks in most indoor public spaces starting Wednesday as part of a regional effort. Boulder and Larimer counties already have mask mandates in place. Douglas and Broomfield counties are not requiring masks in indoor public spaces.
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