One in four people being tested for COVID-19 in Denver are positive, and hospital capacity is “razor thin,” said Mayor Michael Hancock Tuesday.
Hancock — who is still under quarantine after testing positive for a breakthrough COVID-19 case — joined city public health executive director Bob McDonald virtually to detail how the latest wave of the pandemic is impacting the city.
The state hit a new record for positive cases on Dec. 31, when 11,018 cases were recorded in a single day. The omicron variant, detected in Denver last month, is fueling the surge in cases. The state’s seven-day positivity rate is at an all-time high of 23.99 percent as of Monday.
Denver’s positivity rate is a bit higher, at 25 percent, according to data from the city’s public health department. The one-week cumulative rate is 1,000 cases per 100,000 people, the highest ever recorded in the city since the pandemic started and far above the fall 2020 wave, which was the previous peak.
McDonald said people who are unvaccinated are more likely to end up hospitalized. The mayor, who got a booster shot, said he experienced mild, cold-like symptoms.
Dr. Connie Price, chief medical officer at Denver Health Medical Center, said omicron is now the dominant variant in Denver. She noted the new variant is making things harder for hospitals that need to continue to take in patients, which can mean less timely care, and in some cases, transferring patients out of Denver, which separates them from family.
Price said cases do not appear to be plateauing yet.
“I think we are in for a very tough two to three weeks,” Price said.
Kathy Howell, Chief Nursing Officer at the University of Colorado Hospital, noted that a recent increase in positivity rates among hospital employees, coupled with an increase in hospital admissions, will pose a challenge to the hospital.
“This is probably going to be the scariest point of this pandemic over the next month,” Howell added.
McDonald said he’s heard from people pointing out testing is getting harder to find in the city, but overall, testing is still available. What’s getting harder to find is same-day testing, he said. Using the “secret shopper” method, he said his staff has been able to find testing from both public and private providers. Price said rapid tests will likely continue to be hard to get for most people due to the short supply.
As of Dec. 30, about 89 percent of Denver residents 12 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose. At least 82 percent of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
“Get vaccinated, get the booster if you haven’t done so and you’re eligible to do so,” Hancock said.
The city last month extended its indoor mask mandate through Feb. 3 after reinstating it in November.
This story had been updated throughout.