DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Friday released a data modeling report that showed Colorado is likely to exceed its April peak of hospitalizations in the next two weeks and could exceed its intensive care capacity in January, if current COVID-19 trends hold.
The ICU capacity could be reached even earlier, in December, if trends continue and gatherings increase over the holiday season, according to the data modeling report.
“There is a small window to improve transmission control over the next few weeks,” Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said in a news release about the report. “To limit increasing infections and avoid peaks that could strain healthcare capacity over the next three months, a substantial increase in transmission control is needed.”
The report was compiled by a team of researchers, including Samet, from the Colorado School of Public Health, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the University of Colorado Boulder Department of Applied Mathematics, the University of Colorado Denver and Colorado State University.
If current COVID-19 trends hold — and cases have been on the rise for weeks, prompting more restrictions in Denver and surrounding counties — then Colorado would likely exceed its previous hospitalization peak by Nov. 10 and reach ICU capacity in mid-January.
"The magnitude and timing of reductions in transmission will determine the severity of COVID-19 in Colorado in the months ahead," the modeling report said.
Colorado's previous hospitalizations peak was April 5, when 1,272 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients were in hospitals. The most recent hospital data Thursday showed 742 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients hospitalized, up from 282 at the beginning of the month.
The most recent data showed 80% of intensive care beds in use across Colorado.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado had about 8,400 hospital beds and 1,800 intensive care beds. The state has the capacity to expand the number of beds to about 12,500, including up to 3,700 intensive care beds, if needed. Alternate care sites, when activated, could also hold up to about 2,200 beds, according to data shared by Gov. Jared Polis this week.
The estimated effective reproductive number, or Re, in Colorado is 1.6 – an increase from the 1.08 Re number the state reported in early September, at a time when the modeling group predicted a surge in cases for October and November.
When the modeling group made those projections, they found the Re number – an estimated number of the recent growth rate of infections – had increased throughout the state. Back then they explained that if the Re number is above 1, the number of infections is growing, with higher values indicating faster growth, but if the Re number is below 1, cases are declining.
The modeling report Friday came at the end of a week that saw officials from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to Gov. Jared Polis warn of the rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Denver on Wednesday moved to the Safer at Home Level 3, meaning businesses will face further restrictions regarding the capacities at which they can operate.
Colorado's most recent COVID-19 three-day average positivity rate for testing was 7.24%, well above the health officials' recommended 5% threshold. Colorado's daily case counts have often exceeded 1,000 new cases, with Sunday seeing an uptick of 2,143 new cases.