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Local hospitals feeling the strain of COVID-19 as cases surge in the state

Posted at 4:15 PM, Dec 03, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — Coronavirus cases continue to surge in Colorado, and hospitals are feeling the impact. According to data compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, approximately 1 in 40 Coloradans are currently sick with the virus. Roughly 80 percent of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) hospital beds in the state are currently occupied.

At a news conference Thursday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy warned the public against getting together for Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza this year.

"Cancel gatherings with people who do not live with you, that includes upcoming holiday planning, wearing a mask when you must go out, and staying at least 6 feet away from others at all times," said Dr. Herlihy.

She explained that it is still too soon to tell the full impact of people spreading the virus during Thanksgiving gathering. Dr. Jonathan Samet, Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said the latest modeling suggests that COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths will continue to increase in the weeks ahead.

Data released by health officials on Thursday projects an additional 2,000 deaths from COVID-19 by the end of the year. So far, 2,708 Coloradans have died due to the virus.

UCHealth Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Steinbruner told reporters during a virtual press conference Thursday there are currently 150 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, triple the 50 or so system. That number is three times as high as it was during the previous peak in infections in March and April.

"It's almost like a mass-casualty event in slow motion," Dr. Steinbruner said.

He explained that elective procedures have been postponed at the hospital so that doctors and nurses could be reassigned to help with the surge of new COVID patients. He also said that Governor Polis has asked hospitals to submit a plan detailing what they would do if the number of COVID patients doubles.

"Every time we move forward with a larger number of patients, we have to retract things that we can do, we have to sort of figure out ways that we can cut corners on normal charting and things that we do all the time that are part of regulation and part of overall safety and figure out ways that we can push the limits," Dr. Steinbruner said.

In El Paso County, around 318 people are currently in the hospital with the virus.

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