New CU model shows hospitals could be overwhelmed if older Coloradans don’t reduce social interactions by more than half

Models suggests Colorado hospitals could exceed ICU bed capacity in September unless coronavirus guidelines are followed by people age 60 and older

Jennifer Brown
The Colorado Sun
A slide from a May 26, 2020, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment presentation showing the projected course of the coronavirus pandemic under several different scenarios. Regardless of the scenario, the models predict that cases of COVID-19 will be increasing by late summer (the vertical dashed line) when kids return to school. The models also show that Coloradans must maintain a high level of social distancing for months into the future to avoid exceeding the state’s capacity of critical-case hospital beds (the horizontal dashed line).

The coronavirus could peak beyond hospital capacity in Colorado in September unless older adults reduce social interactions by more than half of normal for months to come, according to new modeling scenarios released Tuesday.

Colorado will need more intensive-care beds than exist in this state around Aug. 15 — right as school starts — unless people who are age 60 and older reduce their social interactions by at least 65% from pre-virus times, said public health officials during a remote news conference.

Under the models created by the University of Colorado School of Public Health, Colorado would need about 2,500 intensive-care beds by mid-September if those strict isolation recommendations are not followed. The state only has about 1,900 ICU beds. 

The key to preventing hospital overload is a math problem: If older adults go out in public — including to church, restaurants and stores — 65% less compared to normal times, ICU beds will not reach capacity even as cases of coronavirus rise in the fall.

But if senior citizens reduce social interaction by only 45% or 55%, Colorado hospitals are predicted to run out of space for patients who need critical care. 

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