Worst-case scenario: 33,200 Coloradans could die from COVID-19


For the first time since the coronavirus crisis began, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis laid out how much life-saving equipment the state’s hospitals have and how much they might need to help COVID-19 patients in a worst-case scenario.

Speaking Friday afternoon at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Centennial, Polis said as many has 33,200 people in Colorado could die from the coronavirus if the virus spreads rapidly and people don’t follow the state’s stay-at-home executive order.

However, in a best case scenario, that number could drastically be reduced to about 400 deaths.

“We’re going to get through this,” Polis, a Democrat, said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s really important we work together to contain this global pandemic and that it doesn’t take the lives of tens of thousands of Coloradans before their time.”

Polis worked with the Colorado School of Public Health to create the best- and worse-case scenarios. They depend on the innate properties of the virus – how it spreads in Colorado’s climate – along with the social and environmental factors of how people practice social distancing.

Currently, Colorado hospitals have 1,849 intensive care unit beds. Polis said they plan to add 1,000 by May and 5,000 by summer. In a worst-case scenario, they would need 13,800 by the end of April.

The state currently has 900 ventilators, according to Polis, but could need nearly 7,000 if the COVID-19 outbreak continues its exponential growth.

“This is not a sprint. This is a marathon,” said Littleton Adventist Hospital emergency physician Dr. Mark Elliott. “This is a mass casualty in slow motion.”

Elliott has treated at least six COVID patients, but doesn’t know how many more he’ll have to help.

“Today, I’m confident we have enough equipment,” Elliott said. “We don’t know what is coming down the line. I think it gives us all some anxiety.”

That’s why doctors said it’s so important that people practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible.