Briefline

Action for strained hospitals prepared in Colorado as plans to vaccinate kids 5-11 announced

By: - October 28, 2021 5:09 pm

Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a news briefing on Colorado’s response to COVID-19, on Oct. 28, 2021. (Governor Jared Polis Facebook)

State public health officials, in the face of increasing hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients, have implemented one emergency measure and are preparing four others in case they’re needed, Gov. Jared Polis said during a Thursday news briefing. One of the possible measures is activation of crisis standards of care, which include guidance on triage conditions.

There were 1,167 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Colorado on Thursday, Polis said during the briefing. State data indicated that as of Wednesday 92% of acute care hospital beds were in use, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

“We remain at a very elevated number,” Polis said of COVID hospitalizations.

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The state is already moving forward with one response: an expansion of monoclonal antibody treatment. This treatment is offered to high-risk patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19, and it is said to reduce symptoms and lower the likelihood of the need for hospitalization.

Four other potential responses to a growing strain on the state’s hospitals were announced:

  • Request for help from FEMA medical surge teams
  • Temporary halt to cosmetic surgeries and elective medical procedures
  • Activation of crisis standards of care
  • Executive order on patient transfers

Certain provisions of Colorado’s crisis standards of care — which contain various sections on how health care workers should operate when patient needs exceed resources like ventilators and intensive care beds — were activated during a surge of infections last fall. Staffing strains are a particular concern during the current COVID wave.

“Seeing the stress on hospital systems, certainly the staffing crisis standard of care is likely to be activated, and the hospital standard of care, where we look at principles by which hospitals can make decisions on triaging patients and using scarce resources, is another one that we’ll consider,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, during the briefing.

Implementation of further emergency measures will occur “in the next week or so” if infections do not begin to decline, Polis said.

State officials are also preparing to distribute for the first time vaccine doses to kids 5 to 11. This follows the recommendation on Tuesday of a Food and Drug Administration panel that kids in that age group should be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Everyone 12 and older is currently eligible for a vaccine.

There are about 480,000 kids 5 to 11 who would be eligible in Colorado. State officials expect to begin offering vaccine doses — which will be smaller than doses given to older children and adults — on Nov. 5, said Diana Herrero, deputy director of the Colorado Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response, during the briefing. Officials aim to vaccinate 50% of the younger cohort with at least one dose of the two-dose regimen by Jan. 31, Herrero said.

Officials stressed during the briefing that the Pfizer vaccine for kids is demonstrated to be safe and effective — 90% effective in preventing infection and 100% effective in preventing severe illness. They are arranging to have the vaccine offered at sites where kids visit already — schools, medical facilities, children’s museums, libraries and the Denver and Pueblo zoos among them.

“We are working hard to make sure that we’ve got at least one pediatric vaccine clinic in every single county in the state and in a variety of venues,” Herrero said.

Emergency use authorization of the pediatric vaccine must still be granted by officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is expected to come early next week.

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