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COVID-19 hospitalizations in Colorado reach highest level since January

State health leaders also revealed a new public dashboard that provides information about COVID-19 breakthrough cases.

DENVER — Leaders with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said Friday that we're continuing to see an increase in hospitalizations and that number of people hospitalized in Colorado right now is the highest it's been since January of this year.

"We, of course, continue to see that most of the transmission, most of the hospitalization is really occurring among our unvaccinated population, and that's certainly true in the state of the hospitalization data," said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

Currently, there are 891 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and while a small number of those hospitalized are children, the highest rate of transmission is among those between ages 6 and 11, according to Herlihy.

"I want to be clear though that that risk to kids right now is certainly going to be in school settings, but it's also outside of school settings, and it's important for parents to recognize that their kids are at risk, not just, you know, through potentially going to school or exposure at school, but that could happen in many other settings," she said.

She spoke during an update Wednesday afternoon where a new state dashboard was unveiled that provides data on breakthrough cases of COVID-19. Those are cases that occur in people who have been fully vaccinated, meaning they're at least 14 days out from their second dose.

Click here to view the dashboard.

Those who tested positive after only one dose who are not yet 14 days out from the second dose are considered unvaccinated for data purposes.

According to the state's data, those most at risk for breakthrough cases are those 80 and older and those between 20 and 49. Since it's raw data, Herlihy said they're not sure why that is, but they suspect the elderly patients were more vulnerable to begin which might put them at more risk even with the vaccine.

Credit: CDPHE

As for the younger people, she said it could be that age group is more likely to be out and about, and more likely to experience exposure opportunities. She said it's also possible that the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which has a lower efficacy rate than the others, was more popular among younger people.

RELATED: 'This is potentially preventable': COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in Denver

Just under 75% of eligible Coloradans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination rates have been increasing since July, according to the state. 

Credit: CDPHE

Just about 56% of adolescents between 12 and 17 have received at least one dose but the vaccination varies widely across regions of the state.

"The rate for that particular age group varies pretty significantly among regions across the state so we're continuing to devote our resources to increase access and making it convenient and really get these adolescents in for the COVID-19 vaccine," said Heather Roth, the Immunization Branch Chief, Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response at CDPHE. 

UCHealth's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jean Kutner, said they saw a significant increase in COVID hospitalizations in the last 10 days of August.  

"We are prepared," Kutner said. "We were hoping that the story would be different."

At the end of August 2020, UCHealth said they had about 33 patients hospitalized with the virus. A year later, the increases are coming at the start of flu season. 

"In a usual pre-COVID year, we see an uptick in hospitalizations in the fall as flu season and other respiratory viruses get going," Kutner said. "So we were planning for that. We were hoping we would not also see another uptick of COVID." 

Kuther said most of the vaccinated people who are hospitalized are people who do not have strong immune systems, such as cancer or organ transplant patients.  

"That’s really why that third vaccine has been recommended for that population," she said. 

RELATED: COVID-19 boosters are coming but who will get them and when?

COVID-19 booster shots may be coming for at least some Americans but already the Biden administration is being forced to scale back expectations — illustrating just how much important science still has to be worked out.

The initial plan was to offer Pfizer or Moderna boosters starting Sept. 20, contingent on authorization from U.S. regulators. But now administration officials acknowledge Moderna boosters probably won't be ready by then — the Food and Drug Administration needs more evidence to judge them. Adding to the complexity, Moderna wants its booster to be half the dose of the original shots.

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