Colorado reactivates crisis hospital guidelines as Covid cases rise

The Delta variant is driving up Covid-19 hospitalizations in the US’ mountain west, in a worrisome sign of what could be ahead this winter across the country.

Colorado on Wednesday reactivated crisis guidelines for staffing at healthcare systems across the state as Covid hospitalizations and infections in the state continue to rise.

To combat the surge, state health officials said Tuesday that anyone 18 and older qualifies for a booster shot.

“With an estimated 1 in 48 Coloradans infected, it is likely that all Coloradans can be exposed to Covid-19 where they live or work,” said Jessica Bralish, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

More than a third of hospitals reporting to the state said they expected a shortage of intensive care beds in the next week, and nearly two in five said they would be short-staffed, the Denver Post reported.

Roughly 1,431 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized, and state epidemiologist Dr Rachel Herlihy said Wednesday the state could hit 2,258 Covid-19 hospitalizations by 1 January, a record high for the pandemic. Of the more than 1,400 people hospitalized, with a confirmed case of Covid-19, 80% were unvaccinated, according to the Post.

The crisis guidelines allow hospitals to redirect health care workers to help out in strained units, with an experienced worker overseeing them; consider having nurses work longer, ideally less-frequent shifts; if possible, have family members or volunteers help patients with hygiene to free up medical staff; and activate the Colorado National Guard for nonclinical jobs, such as Covid-19 testing or delivering supplies.

While trends are improving in Florida, Texas and other southern states that bore the worst of the summer surge, it’s clear that Delta isn’t done with the US. Covid-19 is moving north and west for the winter as people head indoors, close their windows and breathe stagnant air.

“We’re going to see a lot of outbreaks in unvaccinated people that will result in serious illness, and it will be tragic,” said Dr Donald Milton of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

The Delta variant dominates infections across the US, accounting for more than 99% of the samples analyzed.

No state has achieved a high enough vaccination rate, even when combined with infection-induced immunity, to avoid the type of outbreaks happening now, said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington.

Progress on vaccination continues, yet nearly 60 million Americans age 12 and older remain unvaccinated. That’s an improvement since July, when 100 million were unvaccinated, said Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 coordinator.

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