DENVER (KDVR) — New tools and fewer deaths are silver linings in the COVID-19 storm, but specialists still worry Colorado’s third wave will outpace even the pandemic’s early days.
Dr. Heather Young, an infectious disease specialist at Denver Health, said if the rate of coronavirus spread doesn’t stop soon, hospitals may run out of room.
“The community cases still seem to increasing at an exponential rate,” said Young. “And so if we continue to see more cases in the community, we are going to surpass the number we took care of in the spring. It’s definitely concerning. We just had so many COVID patients and other medical patients and trauma patients that we are certainly having challenges having enough beds to take care of patients.”
Indeed, hospital admissions numbers simply will not stop climbing.
Statewide, Colorado admitted 164 new patients with COVID-19 on Nov. 10, with a seven-day average of 144 per day. These numbers match those of late April – around the point when the seven-day average of daily deaths among COVID-19 cases was at its highest point.
Death rates have not risen to their April highs, but the case spike present problems for hospitals.
Individual hospital data is harder to come by than state data. The Colorado Hospital Association does track how many COVID-19 patients are treated in each of the state’s hospitals but does not release those numbers to the public. Other hospital organizations such as Centura Health do not release those number publicly either.
Those that do release data, however, paint a similar picture to the state data: rising case rates and ICU bed usage rates.
UCHealth has 12 hospitals in Colorado, and 270 patients in them with COVID – the same as the April peak.
Denver Health is currently caring for more than 50 COVID-19 patients – near numbers from spring. Representatives say Denver Health has consistently had 50-60 COVID-19 patients daily for a few weeks now, 1/3 of whom are in the ICU. Ten more ICU patients would put the hospital over its ICU capacity.
HealthONE hospitals are caring for 195 COVID-19 positive patients, and 58 of those patients are in the ICU. This compares to a peak day in April when it treated 226 COVID-19 positive patients, 109 of whom were in the ICU.
Statewide, 84% of the state’s ICU beds are in use – higher than ever. Young, however, says hospital staff are not unused to these high levels.
“It’s definitely concerning,” said Young. “But we run at near capacity in the ICU all the time. We’re sort of used to have a challenge to take care of ICU patients. But having COVID patients on top of our other ICU patients makes this even more challenging.”
The better and more broadly available COVID-19 treatments are, Young said, the better health care workers can clear them from intensive care.
“We give patients steroids now early in their hospital course and I think that really improves their outcomes. We also have access to antiviral medications and also in certain cases for convalescent plasma. Those all improve patient outcomes and prevent them from needing ICU care.”