DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis outlined a plan Friday to organize hospitals’ response to the coronavirus. But he shied away from issuing a statewide stay-at-home order as cases have surged to their highest levels since the pandemic began.
Polis said during a news conference that hospitals must prioritize increased staffing and capacity and scale back elective procedures if they become overwhelmed by patients with the virus. He also said the state’s inter-hospital transfer system could be used to prevent health care facilities from becoming overwhelmed.
“These are our darkest days as a nation. They are our darkest days as a state,” Polis said. “It’s going to take all of us working together to get through the weeks and months ahead.”
Polis said that as a last resort, the state could open its overflow alternative care centers. The temporary facilities, sometimes called field hospitals, have been set up in the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, as well as in Pueblo and the Denver suburb of Westminster. They would be used to treat patients who don’t require intensive care.
“I continue to hope, we all continue to hope, that we will not use those facilities. But we are prepared to activate them if necessary,” the governor said. “And we are a lot closer to that today than we were two weeks ago or we were four weeks ago.”
Health officials estimate that one in 110 people is contagious with the virus statewide, and the infections are higher in populous areas like Denver, where an estimated one in 64 people is contagious. Currently, 1,159 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado, and 2,234 people have died from the disease since the virus started its onslaught on the state in the spring.
Still, Polis said he is confident residents can keep the virus in check without a stay-at-home-order.
“We have Thanksgiving coming up, and I don’t think there’s anything that a governor can say or that a health authority can say that is more compelling than your love for your mother or father or grandparent or aunt or uncle,” he said. “It is that love and the heavy weight that would be on the conscience of anyone who, with eyes wide open, caused the loss of their parent or grandparent.”
Polis said the stay-at-home order issued in the spring was a “very blunt tool” that saved lives as the state faced shortages in personal protective equipment and limited hospital capacity to handle a surge of patients.
“I don’t think this is about stay-at-homes or lockdowns anymore,” he said. “There are specific public health tools. There is surge capacity in place. The people of Colorado know how to keep themselves safe from this virus. We simply need the resolve to do so.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.