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Unvaccinated Coloradans placing 'profound' burden on hospitals, CDPHE leaders say
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Nearly 75 percent of eligible Coloradans have at least one dose of the vaccine, yet there are fewer ICU bed available than ever before.
From left to right: Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Gov. Jared Polis, Scott Bookman
Credit: Governor Jared Polis, Facebook

DENVER — Although 75 percent of eligible Coloradans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the remaining 25 percent are largely responsible for the state's increasingly crowded hospitals, state officials said in a September 10 press conference.

"The burden of the unvaccinated on our hospitals is profound," says Scott Bookman, COVID-19 incident commander with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Bookman and Governor Jared Polis announced during the press conference that Colorado now has the lowest ICU bed availability since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals are beginning to implement "surge" protocols, including canceling surgeries.

Bookman made an important clarifying point: the waning availability of ICU beds in the state, while largely due to COVID-19 cases, 

"The difference between this wave and all past waves, is that Coloradans have returned to their normal lives. Those who have been vaccinated have been given the opportunity to go out and live their lives," Bookman explained. "What comes with that is additional cases of trauma, additional heart attacks, additional strokes." All of these things contribute to the lack of open hospital beds.

Alex Burness with The Denver Post noted on Twitter that more than COVID-19 cases or deaths, hospital capacity has been the governor's largest motivating factor for implementing restrictions in the past. As of September 10, 902 Coloradans are hospitalized with COVID-19, the second-highest peak since the spring of 2020.

"I cannot stress enough the state that are hospitals are currently in today—the stress that they are feeling, the impact that this wave is having on them, and the absolute importance of getting vaccinated to end this pandemic," Bookman said. "The burden of the unvaccinated on our hospitals is profound, and it impacts all Coloradans because those that are vaccinated will struggle to get the same level of care in the hospital that they would get if there were fewer COVID hospitalizations."

A large majority—over 80 percent—of current COVID-19 hospitalizations in Colorado are unvaccinated people.

According to CDPHE data, on September 9 there were 894 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Colorado. Of those patients, 726 were not fully vaccinated.

Governor Polis said that most of the 168 fully vaccinated people who were hospitalized at that time were older adults and/or had preexisting conditions.

Despite rising cases—which also include a significant amount of breakthrough cases, in which a fully vaccinated person tests positive for COVID-19—Polis did not announce any statewide mandates or regulations during the Friday press conference.

The governor did touch on President Joe Biden's recent announcement that employers with 100 or more workers must require vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 testing. The new regulations affect an estimated 80 million Americans.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said Thursday, adding that the country's unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

Polis noted that Colorado already has a similar rule for state workers in place.

You can watch the full remarks from Polis and CPDHE officials below.


Kyle Cooke is the Digital Media Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at kylecooke@rmpbs.org.

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