NewsCovering Colorado


El Paso County hospital capacity to move to level orange-red

Hospital worker
Posted at 6:40 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 22:24:25-04

EL PASO COUNTY — El Paso County Public health announced that on Thursday, their regional hospital capacity will change from orange to orange-red on the COVID-19 data dashboard.

El Paso County hospitals say they are seeing the highest numbers since the beginning of the year. The county says these trends are causing hospital capacity to be strained and that hospitals are under more pressure due to resource and staff limitations.

The increase in hospitalizations is currently being driven by those who are not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated, which is accounting for more than 85 percent of those requiring hospital care. According to the data, hospitalizations have also been trending younger compared to 2020. For the last 30 days, 30 percent of hospitalizations of El Paso County residents are age 39 or younger.

“The continued rise in patients with COVID-19, 90% of whom are unvaccinated, as well as other acute medical/surgical needs, has challenged our resources. As such, we have needed to hold patients on the medical floors. We have also begun postponing those surgeries that can reasonably wait," said Dr. William Plauth, chief medical officer for Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Hospital.

Data from just one day at UC Health shows that those who are unvaccinated took up the majority of hospitalizations, ICU cases, and those that required ventilators. That data can be viewed below.

county health data.jpg
UCHealth hospitilizations statewide

Due to the stress hospitals are facing, local health officials are urging people to get vaccinated. El Paso County’s current vaccination rates are at 67.8 percent of eligible residents who have received at least one dose, with 61 percent fully vaccinated. El Paso County ranks near the bottom in terms of having the lowest vaccination rates when compared to the top 10 most populous counties in Colorado. There are also heightened concerns about the ability to provide hospital care for children.

“Children’s Hospital Colorado experts are very concerned about what the next several weeks/months will look like for our kids, especially once influenza begins circulating among our communities and schools, on top of the Delta variant, RSV and other respiratory infections that are common this time of year,” said Dr. Mike DiStefano, southern region chief medical officer. “We anticipate many more kids requiring hospitalization, and we’re already feeling the impact of increased numbers. In addition to the prevalent respiratory infections, our emergency departments are seeing significant increases in children and youth experiencing mental health crises.”

Children’s Hospital Colorado also added that children’s hospitals across the country are facing mounting challenges due to four factors happening at the same time:

  • An early start to the respiratory/flu season
  • The Delta variant
  • The pediatric mental health crisis
  • The heightened demands that are being placed on the health care workforce as more people choose to leave the industry than ever before.

COVID-19 vaccines are available at more than 100 locations throughout El Paso County and remain free for anyone who is 12 years old or older. No identification or insurance are required. A list of providers and locations is available at

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