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Vaccination Rate Keeps Colorado Hospitals Out of Jeopardy

DENVER (CBS4) – Around the country, states are breaking hospitalization records for COVID-19 patients. The Delta variant is surging across the southern United States, overwhelming emergency rooms in Louisiana and Florida. Gov. Jared Polis says Colorado's hospital capacity isn't in jeopardy, but cases continue to rise throughout the state.

"There are parts of our state that have lower vaccination rates and sure enough, they have higher cases and higher hospitalization rates," said Polis during a news conference Monday.

The vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. In Colorado, more than 90% of these cases are the Delta variant.

(credit: CBS)

Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provided an update on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only Rhode Island has fewer hospitalizations than Colorado and health officials say that's due to a high vaccination rate.

A little more than 70% of eligible Coloradans are vaccinated, preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

"If the only goal is to prevent that, then I think the vaccine alone is adequate. If we're trying to prevent spread in the community, then we may need to take another measure," said Dr. Connie Price, Chief Medical Officer at Denver Health. "We're still well under our peak rates of hospitalization that we saw earlier in the year and last year."

Denver Health currently has seven COVID-19 patients and three are in intensive care. The Delta variant has caused less vaccinated areas of the state to nearly reach capacity. In July, 92% of Mesa County's hospital beds were in use.

At UCHealth, Dr. Richard Zane is still trying to convince patients with COVID that the virus is real.

"They've said 'This is not COVID. I don't have COVID. It doesn't exist,'" said Zane.

Polis says outreach programs, like the state's mobile vaccination bus, remain focused in areas with low vaccination rates. According to CDPHE, 7% of ICU beds are available in the western region of Colorado.

State leaders believe Colorado is in good enough shape to avoid re-mandating masks and bringing back restrictions. However, health officials are worried about the spike in cases we're having during a time we'd generally get a seasonal break.

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