As public health officials, we are issuing this statewide advisory due to steadily increasing cases and concern for hospital bed capacity. Colorado and the metro Denver region continue to see steady increases in COVID-19 cases. On November 4, Colorado’s daily case rate (49 per 100,000) was the 5th highest in the country and one of the fastest-growing. The metro region’s 7-day average positivity rate is over 8%, which suggests a continued surge in cases.
On Oct. 30, the metro region had 581 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 — a number that has been increasing over the past weeks. A majority of these COVID hospitalizations (about 80%) continue to be among the unvaccinated. Hospitals serving the metro Denver are full or nearing capacity due to both COVID-19, non-COVID-19 emergencies, and other routine visits, with less than 10% of staffed beds available – a trend not seen at any other point in the pandemic. Nearly 40% of hospitals report current or anticipated staff shortages within the next week. Governor Polis stated that if this surge continues, Colorado will need to request FEMA medical surge teams, halt elective surgeries, and hospitals may need to resort to crisis standards of care.
Taking COVID-19 precautions now will not only prevent additional COVID-19 hospitalizations but will help ease the state’s strained hospital capacity, which puts every Coloradan who may experience a health emergency or have routine health care needs at risk.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Metro Denver Partnership for Health (MDPH) advise the following to prevent COVID-19 infection and hospitalizations:
- All eligible individuals get vaccinated, including completing both doses of mRNA vaccine, if vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, then get a booster dose after six months for extra protection if you are in a higher risk group. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 infection and hospitalizations. Vaccinations are free (no insurance coverage required) and can be obtained in pharmacies and from health care providers.
- Booster doses are also free and especially recommended for anyone 65 years or older, living in a long-term care facility, at high risk for COVID based on health conditions or where you live or work. Anyone who received a one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should also get a booster dose with any of the COVID-19 vaccines. Colorado’s prevalence of COVID-19 makes the state a high-risk area to live and work. Anyone who is 18+ who would like a booster and is either 6 months past their initial series of an mRNA vaccine or 2 months past a one-dose J&J vaccine should make a plan to get the booster dose or discuss with their doctor.
- Vaccine for children aged 5-11 years is now available, following the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for this age group and approval by the CDC. Information for parents and guardians on this vaccine and where to get vaccinated is available on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website. The vaccine is safe and 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections and highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
- Persons at high risk for COVID (those who are not fully vaccinated, persons with conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID) should consider staying out of public indoor spaces until the case rate has declined.
- COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies can help prevent severe illness for some people ages 12 years and older who get infected with COVID-19. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are not fully vaccinated and have been exposed to COVID-19, and you are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 due to your age or medical condition, you may be eligible.
- Wear a mask when in crowded public indoor spaces whether vaccinated or not, even in locations where the county does not already require it. This is especially important when frequenting restaurants, bars, gyms, and other crowded places that do not require proof of vaccination for staff and patrons.
- Move public and private gatherings and events outdoors whenever possible to increase ventilation.
- Get tested if you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and stay home if you are sick or waiting for test results. Employees are entitled to paid sick leave if they have COVID as well as for getting vaccinated for COVID-19.
- Flu season has begun so get a flu shot, which can be given at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine.
As public health officials, we will continue to monitor trends in COVID-19, especially as the region moves into flu season and with holidays approaching, and issue advisories as needed.
Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov.