Jan 13, 2022 - News

Colorado's latest COVID wave differs from past surges

Change in reported COVID-19 cases per 100k people in the last two weeks
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

In a significant shift from previous waves of the pandemic, Colorado is seeing fewer hospitalizations due exclusively to COVID-19.

Driving the news: But public health officials warned Wednesday that the virus is complicating those patients' other ailments and further straining understaffed hospitals, which are seeing more COVID-positive people than at any other point during the pandemic.

By the numbers: The state surpassed 1 million cases this week, while Colorado's positive case rate increased by nearly 160% between Dec. 29 and Jan. 11, a New York Times analysis shows.

  • About 35% of hospitalized patients across the state are admitted for ailments on top of COVID-19, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said at a news briefing Wednesday.
  • Available ICU beds are up to 133 on a seven-day moving average, an improvement compared to the approximately 100 beds available at the peak of the Delta variant wave.
  • And hospitalizations could peak as soon as next week, Herlihy predicted, with the caveat that there would be "lots of variability" from one location to another.

State of play: Public health leaders are putting in place new protocols to deal with the deluge of cases while local hospitals are so swamped and shorthanded that some are even allowing staff to work while infected with the virus so long as their symptoms are mild.

  • Colorado re-activated crisis care standards for ambulances for the second time since the start of the pandemic due to staff shortages and demand for emergency care.
  • Public universities like the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado State University in Fort Collins are now mandating booster shots for students and staff as the spring semester kicks off, the Denver Post reports.

The big picture "March of 2020 was terrifying and this wave right now is scary in its own way. But we have vaccines, we have better treatment. The prognosis is better if people do get infected," Elizabeth Carlton, a member of the state's COVID-19 modeling team, told CPR.

  • "It is obviously still this very serious disease you have to deal with," she said, "but it is not the same as March of 2020."

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