More than 1,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado as of Nov. 9 — part of the grim situation that led Gov. Jared Polis to announce he would extend a statewide order requiring face coverings in public indoor spaces.
“With the rate of the virus the highest that it’s ever been,” Polis said, “it’s more important than ever before in the course of the pandemic to wear a mask when you’re around others — at the store, walking in or out of restaurants, in a workplace that people have to be there and can’t telecommute.”
But in his answers to reporters’ questions, the governor continues to suggest that a statewide stay-at-home order, like the one issued in March and April, is unlikely if not impossible.
“Who’s going to tell whether you’re socializing with your friends at your house?” Polis said at a news briefing on Monday. “It’s not Gov. Polis, it’s not your local police department.” Defeating the virus will require people to take personal responsibility, he said.
As of Nov. 9, 1,060 people were hospitalized in the state with confirmed COVID-19, plus an additional 114 people with possible cases. Colorado on Nov. 5 broke the record for the most people hospitalized with confirmed cases on a single day, and has broken it again every day since.
Of hospitals reporting data to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 17% expect staff shortages and 12% expect intensive care bed shortages within the next week. Accounting for all patients at those hospitals reporting data, 82% of intensive care beds and 40% of ventilators are in use.
Polis on Nov. 7 issued an executive order extending past orders that readied “alternative care sites” for use by the state, should hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
The state has maintained sites at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, St. Anthony North Health Campus in Thornton, and St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, where patients could be transferred from hospitals and health care facilities when they no longer require acute care, to free up more beds in intensive care units.
“Those are not yet needed at this point, but we watch that data in real time,” Polis said of the sites.
The state has averaged 3,063 new cases of COVID-19 each day of the week ending Nov. 8. Recently, health officials have said that as many as 1 in 100 Coloradans are currently contagious with COVID-19, including those who may be asymptomatic.
Nationally, some good news arrived Nov. 9: In its first analysis, Pfizer’s vaccine was found to be over 90% more effective than a placebo shot, the Washington Post reported. The data has not been published or peer-reviewed.
“If enough people are inoculated with a 90% effective vaccine, it ends the pandemic,” Polis said.
But Polis said the state could expect to receive just 100,000 to 200,000 doses of a vaccine by late December. Doses will be first be distributed to health care personnel who are likely to be exposed to or treat people with COVID-19; and people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions and adults 65 and older.
“For most of us, it means early next year for inoculation,” Polis said. “Could be January, February, March — could go into April or May — as progressively more and more of us are able to get that shot, till enough do to end the pandemic.”
A draft vaccination plan the state sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists inpatient health care workers, including those at assisted living facilities; and outpatient health care workers, including home health workers and outpatient pharmacists, as the highest-priority groups.
The plan also states that the vaccine “will most likely not be a mandatory vaccine,” so “educating the public with consistent, accurate, transparent, and timely information will be of utmost importance.”
So far, no counties have been ordered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to implement stay-at-home restrictions under the state’s COVID-19 dial system, though many meet the threshold to move to that level based on their metrics.
More counties are also being moved to more restrictive levels of CDPHE’s COVID-19 dial system. Effective Nov. 9 at 5 p.m., Jefferson County will enter Safer at Home: Level 3, the level of the state’s dial system that is one step above the most restrictive level, Stay at Home.
Under Level 3, indoor events regulated under the state’s Safer at Home order are limited to 50 people and outdoor events to 75 people. Restaurant capacity is set at no than more 50 people or up to 25% capacity, whichever is fewer, and last call for alcohol must be no later than 10 p.m.
Colorado is also under a statewide order restricting personal gatherings to no more than 10 people from up to two households.
“Cancel your social plans with others outside your household,” Polis pleaded with Coloradans. “If you live alone, just pick two or three people that can be part of your bubble and you can socialize with for the next few weeks.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct date when Logan County moved to Safer at Home: Level 3.