Denver Health spokesperson Rachel Hirsch was startled when she first read the change in one-day COVID-19 hospitalization numbers for the hospital on Thursday morning.
There were seven additional COVID-19 patients hospitalized from the previous day, bringing the hospital’s total to 17, including five in the intensive care unit and five needing ventilators, one more than the previous day. Hirsch said the hospital has not had that many hospitalized coronavirus patients since May.
Last year on the same day, Hirsch said the hospital had 10 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, including four in the intensive care unit and six who required a ventilator.
Overall, data from Denver Public Health shows hospitalizations over a seven-day moving average have increased steadily since mid-July.
Denver Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Connie Savor Price said in a statement to Denverite the hospital has seen a recent increase in positive patients this week, but that increase has not impacted its intensive care unit capacity, which she said remains stable. Roughly 70 percent of its 47 ICU beds are occupied, but as Hirsch pointed out, most of those beds are not being occupied by coronavirus patients, and that overall occupancy rate is standard.
That capacity reflects statewide figures. The increase in hospitalizations is due to the Delta variant.
“Denver Health is closely monitoring the continued surge of the Delta Variant across the country and in the metro area,” Denver Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Connie Savor Price said in a statement to Denverite. “Colorado and Denver remain a highly vaccinated population, which has greatly attributed to a steady inpatient number.”
Denver Public Health, the public health arm of Denver Health, has been collecting info on city residents and COVID-19 patients staying in hospitals in the city since last year. The data shows the seven-day moving average for hospitalizations was roughly 22 people on July 15, before jumping to about 45 people as of Monday- about the same rate as in October 2020, before hospitalizations started spiking. There are 47 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
That same data shows the seven-day moving case average for Denver as of Monday is 111.3, which is closer to figures the city had in fall 2020.
Paula Freund, a spokesperson for UCHealth, another major hospital system in the metro area, said in an email on Thursday night that the hospital system is currently experiencing high patient volumes. Freund said it currently has 181 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across its system, which is the highest figure since mid-January. These current numbers have more than doubled since early July, according to Freund.
“We are also seeing an increase in numbers of patients across the state needing to be hospitalized for conditions besides COVID-19,” Freund said over email. “Our emergency departments typically see higher demand for care in the summertime.”
Children’s Hospital Colorado, which is on the same campus in Aurora as UCHealth, is seeing a surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and another respiratory illness, according to the Denver Gazette.
The city has started issuing new public health orders this month to combat the rise in cases.
Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration issued an order on August 2 requiring all city employees, including teachers, cops and people working in medical settings to get vaccinated by Sept. 30. The administration announced this week kids aged two or older would need to wear face coverings inside schools and child care facilities.
Denver Public School’s mandate requiring students, teachers, staff and visitors to mask up in schools took effect on August 9. Classes there start on Monday.
Nearly 500,000 people in Denver have gotten their first vaccine dose, enough for a 77.8 percent initial vaccination rate among people 12 years old and older. Just over 70 percent of people in this age group are fully vaccinated, according to data from Denver Public Health.
Simply put, vaccines are helping people avoid hospital stays. State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said during a press call on Thursday that unvaccinated Coloradans are seven times more likely than vaccinated ones to end up hospitalized.
This story has been updated to include additional comments from UCHealth.