Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising again in Mesa County as the community struggles with widespread transmission of a highly contagious variant and lagging vaccination rates.
The increase in infections is starting to place pressure on local hospitals, with 96% of Mesa County’s hospital beds filled with patients on Friday. Most of the coronavirus hospitalizations are occurring among unvaccinated residents, although at least one health care system said it also is treating more patients with non-COVID injuries.
“We are operating under the assumption that this variant is very widespread in our community,” said Amanda Mayle, a spokeswoman for Mesa County Public Health.
There are about 100 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant, which initially was discovered in India, in the county. The strain was first identified in Mesa County a month ago.
Hospitals often are able to move patients to other units or facilities before they reach capacity. Still, the level of hospitalizations in Mesa County is notable as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining statewide.
There were 35 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mesa County as of Friday, up from 31 hospitalizations on Thursday. Overall, 483 people are being treated for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 in Colorado.
Most of the hospitalizations are occurring among residents who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine. Of the 723 people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mesa County since the pandemic began, 684 were unvaccinated, Mayle said.
Thirty-seven percent of residents — 50,355 people — in Mesa County are fully vaccinated and 41% — 50,801 — of residents have received at least one dose, according to data from the local public health department.
Almost 2.6 million Coloradans are fully vaccinated, which is about 45% of the state’s population. Just over 3 million people are partially vaccinated statewide, according to the state health department.
On Thursday, Mesa County Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard showed that the county has reached 100% hospital capacity, but the information was incomplete and skewed the numbers higher, Mayle said.
About 91% of available intensive-care beds in Mesa County were filled Friday, up from 80% on Wednesday. And 70% of ventilators, which are sometimes used to treat coronavirus patients, were in use. That’s lower from two days ago, when 81% of the county’s ventilators were in use, according to Mesa County Public Health.
While there is a rise in hospitalizations from COVID-19, St. Mary’s Medical Center also is treating more patients with “warm-weather” injuries, according to a statement from SCL Health, which owns the Grand Junction hospital.
“When combined with a slight rise in COVID-19 diagnoses, this has resulted in periodic surges in demand,” the statement said. “Currently, St. Mary’s Medical Center has available bed space to serve patients in need.”
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