LONE TREE, Colo. (CBS4) - Doctors say patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 range in age, medical history, and include both genders, but overwhelmingly have one trait in common: they are not vaccinated. As more people are admitted for severe illness from the virus, the average age has dropped concerning medical staff about the need to increase vaccinations.
"The danger really is when the breathing becomes so difficult, they cannot breathe," said Dr. Eric Lung, chief medical officer for Sky Ridge Medical Center.
Lung says they're seeing an increase in patients over the past week and some have come from other states. Of the 15 patients noted on Tuesday, only one had the vaccine. Lung says in cases where someone is vaccinated, they could also have another underlying medical condition. The age in patients has moved to the 30s and 40s for adults from the 60s.
"The question is posed to the doctors, 'Is there anything that we could have done?' and the response is your loved one could have received the vaccine," he told CBS4 on Tuesday. "There's a lot of anger and denial from the families about that."
These patients may go onto need a ventilator or move to the ICU. The situation is similar at UCHealth where the number of hospitalized cases is 149, across 13 hospitals. That is an increase from around 80 patients earlier in the year. Their average age is 43 and predominantly the patients are unvaccinated, as much as 95%.
"It's affecting everyone across all sorts of different levels of education, religion, etc.," said Dr. Michelle Barron, the senior medical director of infection prevention and control at UCHealth. "There is no one who is potentially being spared."
Baron says those who are unvaccinated had concerns, they were unsure it was safe or got misinformation. She says deaths are not just among the old but even younger adults, cases are across the state as well. Those hospitalized are averaging five days in care, visitations can be limited depending on the location.
"People are still dying from this disease every single day. Every single day we could prevent this potentially if you get a vaccine," she told CBS4 on Tuesday. "I think that's a wakeup call, they think, 'Oh my gosh, that could be me.'"
Her staff tell her there is an understanding of the danger but only after it is too late. She says family and friends have learned from the impact of the virus on their loved ones, choosing to get the vaccine.
"'Can I get the vaccine now?' and the answer is obviously, 'No' unfortunately," she shared some patients have asked. "It infiltrates through that group, where they're like, 'Okay, I was wrong, please go get your vaccine. Don't get sick like I'm sick now."
Doctors worry that people do not understand how concerning it should be to need medical care at their institutions. They also say the spread that comes with unvaccinated populations helps the virus mutate and prolong the pandemic, potentially sending the healthcare system back toward the scenario it saw last year.
"The ones that are being admitted to hospital are being admitted for a reason, they are very sick," Lung said.
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