Polis: 1 in 41 Coloradans contagious with COVID, Colorado Springs has 14 open ICU beds


DENVER — State models estimate 1 in 41 Coloradans is currently contagious with the coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis said in an update Tuesday. That’s the highest number ever.

Polis continued to encourage Coloradans to stay at home for Thanksgiving, celebrating the holiday only with other members of their household.

“I think it’s a time for every Coloradan, and that includes county elected officials, to really ask themselves: are you on the side of the virus, or are you on the side of Colorado?” Polis said.

ICU capacity

Polis said as of Tuesday afternoon, Denver has 25 open ICU beds, Colorado Springs has 14, Pueblo has five, and Weld County has three. He said some hospitals are also seeing a crunch in the availability of non-ICU beds.

State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said models show if transmission continues on its current trajectory, Colorado will exceed ICU bed capacity in mid-January.

Polis said the state has not activated its alternate care sites in Denver, Pueblo, and Westminster, but they are monitoring data daily to see if the sites will be needed.

6,600 deaths possible

Herlihy also said that if transmission continues at its current rate, 6,600 Coloradans could die of the virus by the end of 2020–more than double the current number.

“It really has to do with the amount of disease transmission that we are seeing right now,” Herlihy said. “It’s an unprecedented level, as all of you know when you saw it in the figure. The amount of disease transmission that we’ve seen in Colorado in the last several days is really the highest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic, and at that high rate of disease transmission, we are unfortunately going to see an increasing number of deaths occur in the state.”

In the first eight months of the pandemic, 2,456 Coloradans have died of the virus, according to state data.

“If we can reverse the trend and really improve our transmission control, improve social distancing, improve mask compliance, you’ll see that we can really decrease the number of deaths that occur in Colorado by thousands,” Herlihy said.

Counties moving to Level Red

Several Colorado counties, including Pueblo, have recently moved to Level Red on the state’s coronavirus dial, and others, including El Paso, will be doing so in the coming days.

Polis said he is confident these steps will help reduce the transmission of the virus, but because the virus’s incubation period is usually five to 10 days, it could take about a week and a half to see an impact.

“I am confident that the steps that are being taken across our state, with the counties that are now in Red, will help turn the corner on reducing cases and hospital load, which is now in a very critical phase,” Polis said.

Plan to reopen schools

Polis said his office has established a task force to examine how schools can return to in-person learning in January. The group’s first meeting is Wednesday.

“We are going to be more hands-on in working with teachers and school districts and schools and families to get kids back to in-person learning in January, for next semester, and have a minimum number of interruptions,” Polis said.

Last week, the governor encouraged K-5 schools to return to in-person classes.

“We’re going to be very engaged, working with all the stakeholders, because we know that not only do parents rely on it, but frankly, we can’t let the future of our kids become yet another casualty of this pandemic,” Polis said Tuesday.

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