ICU capacity at risk of running out if COVID-19 transmission rate keeps up

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DENVER | Hospital capacity continues to worry state health officials, as COVID-19 cases are still well above where they were in the spring and models indicate there may not be enough ICU beds for critical patients by the end of the year. 

The state has the capacity for 1,325 ICU patients, according to the state health department. Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said at a Tuesday news conference that at the current trajectory the state would exceed that capacity by January. 

Decreasing virus transmission will help, but if hospitalizations continue to grow, there’s a possibility alternative care sites will need to be activated. Polis said that could allow hospitals to turn some non-ICU beds into ICU beds. 

Keeping at the current trajectory — with no change in virus transmission — Colorado would hit its ICU capacity by mid-January.

Places like Pueblo and Mesa County on the Western Slope are already bumping up against their capacity.

Herlihy said cases have stabilized a bit over the past few days — the latest data from the state health department shows 168 fewer cases than yesterday — but there isn’t enough data to indicate whether that trend will continue. The Thanksgiving holiday could reverse any positive trends in case growth. 

Herlihy said past holidays have led to a bump in cases. That’s expected with Thanksgiving, particularly as people are more likely to gather indoors. 

Polis has urged Coloradans to avoid spending Thanksgiving with people who they don’t live with, wear masks when they leave their homes and keep at least 6 feet of distance of others.

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