Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday that he is preparing to request federal medical surge teams, stop elective and cosmetic surgeries, and scale up distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state continue to spike.
Polis also said he may reinstate an order or orders rationing medical care — including a crisis standards of care directive — in the state.
The governor said the steps will be taken in the coming days and weeks unless the number of new COVID-19 cases begins to decline, which he said he doesn’t necessarily expect to happen.
“I don’t think they’ll all be in place in a week or two unless things get worse,” Polis said. “We still have space in hospitals. It’s tight. There’s extra shifts. People are working (hard). But we’re not at the point yet where we have to, as a state, ban elective surgery.”
Monoclonal antibody treatments are already being distributed to urgent care and mobile clinics so that people can access them outside of a hospital setting. The treatments can reduce the risk of hospitalization in people who contract COVID-19.
The announcement Thursday at a news conference at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver is the most serious signal yet that Colorado’s coronavirus situation has worsened to the point that the capacity of the state’s hospitals is being threatened.
Last week, state health officials warned that the surge in hospitalizations had left Colorado with only about 120 available intensive care beds.
“The reality is we have a high level of cases in Colorado,” Polis said of Colorado’s COVID-19 hospitalizations.
On Thursday, Colorado had the eighth highest number of daily average cases per 100,000 people among the 50 U.S. states, according to The New York Times.
As of Thursday , 1,167 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in the state. That’s the highest number since December 2020.
“We are continuing to move very much in the wrong direction,” Scott Bookman, incident commander at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re all very concerned at this point.”
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s top epidemiologist, said Colorado is in the middle of “an unfortunate trend.”
Many of the new coronavirus cases in Colorado are among children. The state is setting up vaccine clinics for kids 5 to 11 in anticipation of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine being approved for that age group in the coming days.
Diana Herrero, deputy director of Colorado’s Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response, said the state anticipates being able to vaccinate young children against COVID-19 as soon as Nov. 5. Museums, schools, libraries and zoos could all become mass COVID-19 vaccination sites for kids, in addition to pharmacies and doctor’s offices.
The state is planning to offer at least one pediatric vaccine clinic in each county.
“Right now, we’ve got about 384 locations outside of the big events we’re planning,” Herrero said.
There are about 480,000 people in Colorado between the ages of 5 and 11. The state hopes to be able to inoculate at least half of those with at least one dose by Jan. 31.
Polis did not answer a question Thursday about whether he is preparing to reinstate COVID-19 public health mandates, like an indoor mask-wearing order. Some counties — like Boulder and Larimer — have done so on their own amid rising cases.
The governor has said previously that protecting Colorado’s hospital capacity will drive his decision making on public health orders.