DENVER – Colorado is preparing to ask the federal government to supply medical surge teams and is considering stopping elective surgeries as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to stay at a high level and as the state readies to start vaccinating kids ages 5-11.
Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference Thursday that along with the surge teams and pause of elective and cosmetic surgeries, he is considering moving back to crisis standards of care and a patient transfer system, and Colorado will start distributing monoclonal antibody treatments at mobile sites next week.
Polis said there were 1,167 Coloradans hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday – a drop of 24 people from Wednesday, but still among the highest levels throughout the pandemic and the highest since last December.
He said he was not yet ready to roll out any of the possible plans aside from the antibody treatment expansion but said he “might be there in a few days or a week” if hospitalizations continue to rise.
The monoclonal antibody treatments, which are being used under emergency use authorizations, will start being moved out of hospital settings to urgent care and mobile bus clinics so people who get COVID-19 can utilize them to reduce their risk of hospitalization and death, Polis said. He said two of five mobile clinics that will disperse them will launch next week.
The governor said his administration met with Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 8 officials to discuss submitting a request for a federal medical surge team if it is needed, and said the state could move back to utilizing various crisis standards of care if hospitalizations continue to grow in number.
Last week, there were only 120 intensive care unit beds available across the state, and Polis and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials warned that people needing other critical care could soon be out of luck if ICU beds continue to fill up with more COVID-19 patients.
Polis also continued to discuss the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing severe outcomes for people who contract the virus. He said since July among people ages 12-40 in Colorado, only one out of 31 people who died was fully vaccinated, and they had a terminal illness.
“What this shows is the vaccine is close to 100% effective if you are under 40,” Polis said.
Out of 163 people ages 41-59 who died during the time, when the delta variant has been prevalent, 150 were not vaccinated. Among older Coloradans, the vast bulk of deaths involved unvaccinated people, he said.
Vaccines for kids 5-11
Polis and other state health and vaccine officials also discussed the pending rollout of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5-11, which is expected to begin around Nov. 5 should the Centers for Disease Control recommend their use next week, as is expected, said Diana Herrero, the deputy director of the Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response.
The state started placing orders for the pediatric version of the vaccine last week, which are about one-third the dose of the vaccine used in adults and older children.
There are about 480,000 kids in the 5-11 age group in Colorado, Herrero said, and the state hopes to vaccinate half of them by the end of January, she and other officials said. The state is working with pediatric offices, local pharmacies, local public health agencies and mobile clinics to disperse the vaccine for children once it is available, and plans to have vaccine sites at places like zoos and museums, where both kids and adults will all be able to get vaccinated.
Herrero said the state was still working on finalizing dates and times for those clinics. Dr. Eric France, the CDPHE’s chief medical officer, said the Pfizer vaccine was 91% effective in preventing infection and 100% effective in preventing severe illness in the clinical trials for kids ages 5-11, some of which were conducted at Children’s Hospital Colorado. He said the data showed the vaccines were safe and effective and that side effects were more minimal for children than for adults.
Dr. Lalit Bajaj, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist and the chief quality and outcomes officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado, called the impending rollout “encouraging news for this group of kids and families in Colorado.”
Herrero said pediatricians have already been enrolled to start administering the vaccines for children, along with 150 pharmacy locations and more than 300 other locations that will be posted in coming days.
“More than 2,000 children have safely received the vaccine. We have fought deadly diseases with childhood vaccines for decades,” France said. “Making sure children are vaccinated against COVID will help keep our communities safe and healthy.”