In light of surging coronavirus cases, Governor Jared Polis has ordered the State Emergency Operations Center to return to level 1. Making the announcement at a Nov. 14 COVID-19 update, Polis urged Coloradans not to play Russian roulette with the deadly virus.

The highest level of operation, level 1 brings together all state agencies, federal partners and the voluntary organizations that serve the State’s communities in crisis.

In addition, Polis announced a new executive order requiring all general hospitals to submit plans with their maximum surge bed count and surge plan to the state by Nov. 18.

"Our North Star is — and continues to be — making sure that we have those available beds. ... We want to make sure every person who contracts COVID has a chance of fighting chance and making it through," Polis said.

"About 5 percent of the folks that that enter the hospital with COVID don't make it out. One in 20.

"That's not the type of Russian Roulette that any Coloradan wants to play — one in 20 chance of not making it out if you're hospitalized — which is just another reason to take this very seriously in our lives. Avoid socializing people outside of our household; wear masks around others; and avoid social interactions.

"These are our darkest days as a nation; they are our darkest days as a state," Polis added. "It's going to take all of us working together to get through the weeks and months ahead with the promise of vaccine, with the promise of better and better therapies over time.

"Already it's substantially better to get the virus now than it was in March — and there'll be much more [likelihood of] survival in January, February than it is now. It only gets better with time, for treatment, which is another reason to take precautions now."

Polis signed an Executive Order to clarify the order of operations for surging hospital capacity for the State of Colorado. 

The first line of defense is for hospitals to increase their capacity internally by opening up unused space and augmenting their staffing. If more capacity is needed, then hospitals must scale back elective procedures. If patient load continues to surge after these steps the state will work with the Colorado Hospital Association to address the interhospital transfer system.  

If the caseload outstrips these strategies, alternative care sites will be used as a last resort. Hospitals need to exhaust all of their resources before alternative care sites are utilized. 

Polis’ executive order requires general hospitals to submit surge plans to CDPHE, to include:

  • a detailed plan to potentially increase bed capacity by at least fifty percent and provide staffing and medical equipment for such increase;

  • strategies to increase the number of ICU beds by transitioning medical and surgical beds to ICU beds if needed; 

  • a detailed staffing plan, sufficient to provide adequate care for all beds, including those in use or available to patients other than COVID-19 patients; and

  • a mandate for elective procedures to be actively managed, reduced and/ or delayed if there is a surge of COVID-19 infections in the county or municipality in which the Facility is located. 

It also directs that all hospitals report the maximum number of staffed ICU beds that can be made available for patients in need of ICU level care, as well as the maximum number of staffed medical and surgical beds available for non-ICU hospitalization at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. each day. Hospitals and medical providers are encouraged to continue using telehealth and virtual visits as much as possible. 

Under current public health orders, hospitals that are at more than 70 percent capacity or have less than a two-week supply of PPE must actively manage their elective procedures to ensure they have adequate capacity for a surge of patients, which has been the law in Colorado since July.

Polis said he plans to update both the executive orders and public health order to make it clear that hospitals experiencing stress and strain serving patients must start a mandatory scale back of elective procedures in anticipation for a surge of patients in the coming weeks. 

Polis extended an executive order increasing the Medicaid home health workforce and eliminating cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment for Medicaid enrollees. 

Polis also announced more than one million Coloradans have opted in to receive the Colorado Exposure Notification technology which went live on all Android and Apple phones last month. Visit addyourphone.com for more information or to sign up.

In order to scale up testing, the State is partnering with COVIDCheck Colorado, part of Gary Community Investments, that has launched seven testing sites open to the general public. The sites are in and around Denver; there are no COVIDCheck Colorado sites in Colorado Springs.

“I will never give up on Coloradans and I know we have the resolve to do what is necessary to defeat this virus. Cases and hospitalizations have continued rising with over 1100 Coloradans currently hospitalized for COVID,” Polis said at the update.

“We simply must do a better job of wearing masks, physically distaning and avoiding social interactions with those outside our households. It’s up to us, Colorado — the time for change is now.”

Managing Editor, Colorado Springs Business Journal

Helen Robinson is a graduate of The University of Queensland, Australia. She worked in print media in Australia, Canada and the United States before joining the Colorado Springs Business Journal in 2016.