Colorado hospitals can turn away patients as COVID-19 surges

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Colorado hospitals grappling with an influx of COVID-19 cases no longer have to accept new patients, following an executive order by Governor Jared Polis.

The Democrat’s order on Sunday came as hospital capacity across the state dropped to less than 10%. This edict is for hospitals who have reached or neared their limit on how many patients they can handle. It authorizes the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to “order hospitals and freestanding emergency departments to transfer or cease the admission of (and redirect) patients to respond to the current COVID-19 Disaster Emergency in Colorado. “

Polis said his actions will help “address the staffing shortages in hospitals,” which he termed “severe.”

The governor’s order gives local health care workers more latitude to decide who gets treated first in an emergency. The order also coincides with a state mandate requiring health care workers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with 92% of Colorado’s hospital workers now immunized.

Despite having terminated 119 workers for refusing to get vaccinated, UCHealth, one of the state’s biggest health systems, said the mandate helped improve staffing among its workforce of 26,500.

“With broad vaccination rates, fewer employees are testing positive for COVID-19 and needing to be out of work while they recover,” a UCHealth spokesperson told Colorado Public Radio.

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Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection control and prevention for UCHealth, told the radio station that she found it “unfortunate that there were individuals that had to be let go.” She said that she felt strongly about the fact that they didn’t belong to health care.

Polis last week said Colorado on Monday would start transferring monoclonal antibody treatment out of medical centers to a fleet of mobile clinics.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Colorado are at their highest since last year, before vaccines were readily available. The use of masks is optional. Most restaurants in the state are operating at maximum capacity, and Polis has been reluctant to lift statewide restrictions. The state’s positivity rate is running above 8%.

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