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Covid-19 cases continue to climb in western states

Covid-19 infections have spiked dramatically in several western states.

DENVER (CN) — With an estimated one in 48 people carrying Covid-19, according to Colorado health officials, the entire state has become a high risk setting making everyone who received a Pfizer or Moderna shot six months ago eligible for a booster. People who received the one-shot Janzen can receive a booster after two months have passed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend anyone living or working in a high risk setting to obtain a follow up booster.

With 17% of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients and 51% of the state's critical care ventilators are in use, Colorado activated crisis standards of care on Tuesday providing guidance for the distribution of limited resources in healthcare facilities. 

The state is working to maintain hospital availability not just for Covid-19 patients but for others seeking routine and emergency medical care.

“We want to be sure Coloradans know they can and should continue to access necessary health care. If you’re sick and need care, please go get it,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for Colorado in a statement. “Activating staffing crisis standards of care allows health care systems to maximize the care they can provide in their communities with the staff they have available.”

Seventy-nine percent of the state’s hospitalized Covid-19 patients are unvaccinated.

Statewide 72% of eligible Coloradans, or 3.5 million people, have been vaccinated against Covid-19. This leaves 2.2 million people unvaccinated, a group including people with medical or religious exemptions, and numerous hard-to-reach vaccine-hesitant folks, many of whom live in rural communities.

Nearly 40% of medical facilities anticipate facing staffing shortages and a little more than a third anticipate ICU bed shortages within the next week.

With 95% of hospital beds occupied, the state has fewer than 100 emergency beds available. Some rural areas, including Alamosa County, have been at capacity for months.

“There are six ICU beds available in our regions. They are all currently in use and that has been the case most days since early September,” said Linda Smith, a Regional Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator for Alamosa County.

Beginning in August, the Delta variant has been found responsible for 99% of infections statewide. In addition to the highly transmissible Delta variant, Smith attributes the high caseload to low vaccine rates.

“We've been saying kind of the same things all along," Smith said. "Be careful, get a vaccine."

As communities nationwide struggle to reach vaccine-hesitant people, Covid-19 cases have still been on the decline across the U.S. There is no simple answer as to why cases in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona are on the rise.

“We just don't have enough data in real time to disentangle all of the different moving parts," said Joe Gerald, an associate professor of health policy at the University of Arizona. "Thinking about the western states, is it changing seasonality, because we're moving from summer to fall the winter? At the same time vaccination programs are ongoing and we have schools and Halloween."

Over the last week, an average 3,100 Arizonians reported positive for Covid-19 each day, with the vast majority of cases in the highly populous Maricopa County. According to state data, nearly 60% of eligible people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to date.

“Here’s where the real threat and risk still lies: there are just too many Americans who haven't been immunized and until they either get immunized or they become infected, we’re going to continue to struggle with very crowded hospitals,” Gerald explained.

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