Hospitals in the area continue to report high COVID cases, although most are not seeking care for COVID symptoms.
Last week more than 350 people who sought medical care in a UCHealth hospital tested positive for the virus. Of those 350, a third were there specifically for COVID-related symptoms, the others sought care for things such as strokes, heart attacks and physical injuries, according to a UCHealth news release on Wednesday.
The same situation is seen across the Centura Health system, which includes 17 hospitals throughout Colorado. This week 435 patients tested positive for the virus, an increase from 336 last week, according to Meridith Ritchie, communications field advisor at Centura Health.
Both healthcare systems state that testing for the virus is routine for all patients admitted for inpatient care.
“Patients who are unvaccinated still make up the vast majority of those in the hospital or in the ICUs who need treatment for COVID-19,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, UCHealth’s senior medical director of infection prevention and control and a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Breakthrough infections are occurring, but a lot of those breakthrough infections are not as severe because the vaccine is protecting those individuals. The purpose of the vaccines is to keep you from getting severe illness and dying from COVID-19, and they are very effective at this.”
The latest data from the state of Colorado reports over 11,315 new cases and of those Boulder County reported 1,754.2 new cases. Broomfield reported 1,276 new cases.
Ritchie added that 100% of the cases seen in the Centura Health system are positive for the omicron variant. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the variant is more easily transmitted than previous variants.
“While omicron appears to be less severe than delta, the change in hospitalization data still brings challenges,” states the UCHealth news release.
Both healthcare systems report those who are unvaccinated remain the majority of the COVID-19 cases treated. Centura Health reported 70% of COVID-19 cases treated in their system to be in unvaccinated individuals. UCHealth reported 75 ventilated ICU patients were also COVID-19 patients. Around 90% of those remained unvaccinated.
“While Omicron is less severe than other variants, the risk is not zero,” Barron said. “Even if you have mild symptoms, if you are unvaccinated, you remain at high risk for developing complications related to the virus.”
Across Colorado, 70.82% of eligible people are fully vaccinated with 69% of those over 65 and 48.7% of those over 18 having received a booster shot, according to the latest data posted on the state of Colorado’s website.
Although positive COVID cases have risen across the state many may not even know they are positive.
“Because of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, people often experience mild symptoms or none at all. As a result, patients may be unaware they have contracted COVID-19 when coming to the hospital for other injuries or illnesses,” Ritchie said.
“UCHealth continues to urge Coloradans to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 if eligible, and to continue to wear masks, physically distance, avoid large crowds and wash hands frequently,” the news release states.