Governor Jared Polis has signed an executive order declaring Colorado a high-risk COVID state and making every Coloradan who is 18 or older eligible for a booster shot. The move defies guidance by the FDA and CDC, which last month authorized that only seniors and other higher-risk adults were eligible for booster shots.
COVID cases are increasing again in Colorado and many parts of the U.S., raising fears of another difficult winter.
At least 35 states have seen daily COVID cases trend upward over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Ninety-five percent of Colorado's ICU beds are now full. The Department of Health says nearly 40% of hospitals in the state are expected to experience staffing shortages within a week.
"We still want to provide the very best care to our patients but that's just a little more difficult in these trying times," ICU nurse Traci Priebe said.
That is why Polis has called for 500 additional beds and activated the state's crisis standards of care. That move gives hospitals flexibility in allocating resources, including affecting the ratio of staff to patients.
As Colorado moves into the winter season, health care workers say they are committed to delivering care but would like some support.
"I think that everybody is obviously committed to doing the best we can and take care of patients, but I think there's also a sort of sense of wanting the community to step up," said Dr. Michelle Barron, the senior medical director of infection prevention at UCHealth.
To Barron and Priebe, "stepping up" means getting vaccinated. Eight of 10 eligible people in Colorado have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which is higher than the national average but three counties in Colorado are still under 40%.
About 80% of the state's more than 1,400 hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated.
"There's been a high percentage of individuals vaccinated above the national average, but that means that 30 percent of people are still not vaccinated, which in the setting of the Delta variant means they're vulnerable," Barron said. "I think other places in the United States are starting to see sort of similar trends where I think we have this magical number in our heads that, 'Oh, once we reach X amount of vaccination, we're good' and clearly, that's not the case."