Mask, vaccine mandate as COVID hospitalizations hammer Colorado

The state health department wants businesses and restaurants to implement mask or vaccine mandates to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but is preparing for the possibility that statewide action will be needed as Colorado’s hospitals continue to fill with COVID-19 patients, Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the agency, said Monday.

Coronavirus hospitalizations are at their highest point since Christmas and officials with the state Department of Public Health and Environment believe Colorado could hit capacity by the end of November.

Hospitals are already diverting — or turning away —  ambulances as their emergency rooms fill, France said.

“Ultimately, we are trying to protect our hospital beds,” he said, adding, “Maybe we have to really work harder to have businesses require masks or ask restaurant owners to ask for proof of vaccination.”

When asked whether the health department is considering taking action itself, France said “possibly.” He said the agency also hopes local officials will take steps to curb the spread of the virus.

“We’re preparing for that possibility,” he said. “We’ll track hospitalizations over the next week or two.”

Larimer and Boulder counties have already reinstated indoor mask mandates. 

There were 1,132 people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Another 82 patients had potential infections, according to the latest data from the state health department.

As of Friday, only 130 intensive-care beds were available and 91% of the state’s acute-care beds were filled, according to the data.

“We’re certainly worried about hospital capacity for medical and surgical beds and that we might be at capacity by the end of November,” France said.

Hospitals began diverting ambulances 10 days ago, a move that is reminiscent of the scenes that took place during last year’s deadly third-wave.

France encouraged Coloradans to wear masks indoors and to get either vaccinated or receive their booster shot if they are already inoculated.

People should also get their flu shot as a normal flu season, in which more people are hospitalized, “might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” he said.

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