By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – As a wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to fill much-needed beds around the state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a health order halting most cosmetic procedures.

On Monday, the state reported 1,236 people with COVID-19 getting treatment, the highest number so far this year.

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“We are full, we are at capacity,” said Dr. Connie Savor Price, Chief Medical Officer at Denver Health.

(credit: CBS)

Much like everywhere else, open hospital beds are few and far between at Denver Health. Dr. Price compares it to last year’s peak, attributing the rise to a combination of COVID, other acute conditions, and staffing shortages.

“We’re doing similar amounts of work with fewer people,” Price said.

Throughout the pandemic, one way to free up beds has been delaying what few cosmetic procedures they perform, as well as some elective ones.

Now, one of those scenarios will be mandatory. A new health order states all licensed hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) owned by hospitals, and outpatient surgery centers must delay cosmetic procedures until Dec. 1. Exceptions to the order include cosmetic procedures that must happen in the next six months to prevent harm to life, limb, or function.

In an email response to CBS4, a spokesperson said CDPHE will rely on facilities “to make good faith determinations regarding which procedures are not emergencies and are purely cosmetic.”

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Cara Welch, senior director of communications for the Colorado Hospital Association, said the order is a sign of where Colorado is and where it could be going.

(credit: CBS)

“While it will have some impact, it’s mostly a big signal that we are taking seriously that we need to focus on certain areas,” Welch said.

While last year, the state delayed all non-emergency procedures, this health order doesn’t go as far. Still, Dr. Price’s facility and many others are delaying some elective procedures when they can, knowing doing so too much will create other issues.

“All it does is just push the problem down the road,” Price said.

Price and Welch say it’s a balancing act that can be made much easier if Coloradans continue to get vaccinated and take proper health precautions.

“We are to a point again where we absolutely need help from Coloradans in order to bring our numbers down, so we don’t break our hospital system,” Welch said.

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This is one of several health orders announced by the CDPHE and Gov. Jared Polis over the weekend. One gives the state more control of hospital admissions and transfers, while another clarifies that the crisis standards of care can be activated.

Conor McCue