As COVID cases rise, local hospital ICUs fill up

‘Vast majority’ of hospitalized virus patients are unvaccinated

Thelma Grimes
tgrimes@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/3/21

As COVID-19 cases continue to go up across the metro area due to the highly-transmissible delta variant, hospitals are admitting more patients to ICU beds, and UCHealth and Kaiser Permanente are …

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As COVID cases rise, local hospital ICUs fill up

‘Vast majority’ of hospitalized virus patients are unvaccinated

Posted

As COVID-19 cases continue to go up across the metro area due to the highly-transmissible delta variant, hospitals are admitting more patients to ICU beds, and UCHealth and Kaiser Permanente are postponing non-urgent medical procedures.

According to the Tri-County Health Department, as of Sept. 1, hospitals in Douglas County had reached 95% capacity for ICU beds. Inpatient beds were exceeding 85%.

In neighboring Arapahoe County, ICU beds were at 83.4% capacity to start the month of September. Adams County increased to 91.3% capacity.

As hospitals are dealing with the increase in cases, UCHealth made the call last week to postpone non-urgent surgeries as the system faces the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since January, when cases neared 500.

At the start of September, UCHealth reported more than 260 hospitalizations due to confirmed or suspected COVID patients.

UCHealth has 12 hospitals. In the Denver metro area, UCHealth has hospitals in Highlands Ranch, Aurora and Broomfield.

A statement provided by media relations manager Paula Freund said, “Highlands Ranch Hospital and other UCHealth hospitals are experiencing very high census rates and caring for near-record numbers of patients. We are closely monitoring the capacity of our hospitals.

“To ensure we have available beds and the capabilities to care for any patients who may have an urgent or emergent health care need, we have been proactively postponing a small number of non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries and procedures that would have led to an admission to one of our hospitals, including Highlands Ranch Hospital,” Freund said. “This is helping to open up beds as needed for patients with more urgent health care conditions.”

Centura Health has several hospitals in the region, including Castle Rock Adventist Hospital and Parker Adventist Hospital in Douglas County.

On Sept. 1, Kevin Massey, the organization’s communications field adviser, said, “Centura Health hospitals, like other hospital systems in Colorado and elsewhere, have seen an increase in COVID-19 patients over the summer as the delta variant has spread in our communities. However, the number of patients with COVID-19 is still far lower than we saw in the winter. Although our hospitals are busy, all of our facilities have the capacity to care for everyone in our communities who need us.” 

Like other health officials in the region, Massey said unvaccinated cases are causing more concern.

“The vast majority of our COVID-19 inpatients are unvaccinated. We continue to encourage all in our communities to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said. “The vaccines are safe and effective and are the best way to avoid becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others.”

In late August, Dr. Ben Usatch, emergency medicine physician and medical director of the UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital Emergency Department, said the Douglas County hospital is gaining more patients every day and the difference between an unvaccinated and vaccinated case is dramatic.

Usatch said unvaccinated patients are requiring more care, ventilators and are in more serious condition.

In cases where a vaccinated patient gets a breakthrough case of COVID, Usatch said, the symptoms are routinely mild and need little care.

Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, operated by the HealthOne hospital system, has also seen an increase in COVID patients due to the delta variant.

In a Sept. 2 statement, Linda Watson, the hospital vice president of marketing and public affairs, said, “Like other hospitals, Sky Ridge Medical Center has seen a marked increase in COVID-19 patients in the past few weeks. This increase includes patients on our medical floor as well as those requiring ICU care. Our COVID-19 patient admissions have tripled in the past 30 days.  About a third of COVID patients admitted currently require ICU care, and approximately half of those COVID-19 patients in the ICU require ventilation.”

Watson said Sky Ridge is there for the entire community and has the capacity to continue treating patients.

“On a regular basis, there is a frequent flow of patients admitted and discharged,” she said. “We continually monitor our census and assess resources and support to help meet the needs of our community including those non-COVID-19 patients who require our care.” 

Like other medical professionals, Sky Ridge Chief Medical Officer Eric Lung said in late August that vaccinations are going to be the key to decreasing the severity of COVID cases and stopping the spreading pandemic.:

(Update: Since this story went live, Kaiser Permanente has removed the text regarding the postponement of elective surgeries. The company said it is not postponing elective surgeries at this time.)

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