By Kati Weis

DENVER (CBS4) – As the vaccine rolls out, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are dropping dramatically in Colorado. On Friday, there were 303 hospitalized patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared to 1,847 on Dec. 1 2020, and 888 on April 14, 2020.

Friday at Denver Health, there were only two COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and 12 COVID-19 patients total. Those numbers are a relief for hospital staff.

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“It is really at the rate that was in early September, so we’re getting close to one of our lower points since this pandemic started,” said Dr. Connie Price with Denver Health. “Less mental stress overseeing so much death and illness that we saw early in this pandemic, we’re seeing less of that now, and that means the world to us.”

At UCHealth’s Aurora campus, hospital officials say there are only 17 COVID-19 patients with confirmed or suspected cases.

But Price says we’re not out of the woods just yet.

Statewide, 78% of ICU beds are currently in use, compared to early April, when only 61% of ICU beds were being used. That’s still better than in November, when 83% of ICU beds were in use on Nov. 13, 2020.

“I think the difference between now and what we were seeing in March is that was the upslope, this is clearly a downslope,” Price said.

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Price also explained we now know more to help us win the war on COVID-19.

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“So, even though we’re still seeing rates in the community that are happening, we are certainly seeing the hospitalization rates go down and fewer ICU patients and fewer patients needing ventilation,” Price said. “And it’s because of the advancements in treatment that we now know that we didn’t know at the beginning of this pandemic.”

Those advancements didn’t come without tragedy, however. Friday at noon, Denver Health ICU staff, as well as workers across the city, took a moment of silence to honor the lives lost from COVID-19.

Price, who said this has been the hardest year of her career, also took a moment to reflect.

“Think of everything that has happened in this year, both with the discovery of this new infection with, the advances in treatment, the ability to diagnose. And now, the rollout of a vaccine, all within the span of a year, it’s pretty incredible,” Price said. “So, I looked back with a lot of respect for those who have been through this and paying my respects for those we have lost, but also thinking about all the advances we’ve made and the future for having a world without having this fear of it.”

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Price has a message for those who have helped contribute to the downslope in hospitalizations: “Thank you, Colorado, for getting us to this point,” Price said. “This took a village, it’s everybody who is working so hard to socially distance, wear their masks, get their vaccine, keep going that and we will have a Colorado without COVID-19 someday.”

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Click here to see more state COVID-19 data.

Kati Weis