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Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Colorado has the lowest number of hospital beds available right now compared with any other point in the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said Wednesday.
Yes, but: It's still unclear what Gov. Jared Polis' administration will do to address the worsening situation.
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Threat level: The rate of coronavirus cases nationwide is declining, but Colorado leads the U.S. in per capita case increases over the past two weeks.
State public health officials cautioned that rising positivity rates indicate more hospitalizations to come.
And the situation is taxing the state's health care system.
An estimated 1,191 people are currently being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Colorado, ticking toward December's high of 1,847, when bed capacity was greater.
The highest hospitalization rates are in El Paso, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, according to state data.
What they're saying: "We are continuing to move very much in the wrong direction," Scott Bookman, the state's COVID-19 chief, said at a briefing.
Between the lines: State public health leaders said they don't know why Colorado is the trouble spot on the COVID map.
Rachel Herlihy, the state's epidemiologist, speculated it could be related to the weather, pointing to western and northern states having higher rates.
What's happening: For months now, as the fifth wave rose unabated, officials have hinted at new statewide mandates to protect hospital capacity. But so far, little is known.
The executive director of Colorado's public health department said in August that her agency is looking at new statewide policies.
The governor said last week he's considering using the National Guard to address the issue but didn't offer details.
Eric France, the state's chief medical officer, raised the possibility of mask requirements and additional action at the state and local level.
What's new: Pressed Wednesday by Axios Denver, state officials said the geographic disparities in rates means local requirements — not a statewide order — are the best approach.
Bookman said the state is discussing the matter with local authorities, but he would not share details.
Zoom in: Likewise, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock played coy when asked about the possibility of new rules, such as indoor mask mandates or requiring proof of vaccinations in public places.
"As always, the answer remains the same: Data will lead us, and everything remains on the table," Hancock said. "It would be too early to take anything off the table."
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