DENVER (AP) — Colorado residents with COVID-19 who are at high risk of severe illness will no longer need a doctor’s referral before getting antibody treatments designed to keep them out of hospitals, starting next week.

Gov. Jared Polis made the announcement expanding access to monoclonal antibodies on Friday. Colorado’s hospitals have been stressed by high COVID-19 caseloads, and two in every five hospitals reporting to the state expected to be short on intensive care beds within the next week. Roughly 45% of hospitals said they were experiencing staff shortages.

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About one out of every 62 Colorado residents is currently infected with COVID-19.

(credit: UCHealth)

Still, the governor has resisted reinstating public health measures such as mask mandates or capacity limits on businesses, despite calls from local public health officials to take more aggressive action. On Monday, the health departments representing Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe counties — which have lobbied Polis to issue a new mask mandate for public indoor spaces — will consider enacting their own.

Public health experts warn coronavirus cases could climb as people gather together during the holiday season.

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In Colorado Springs, public defenders are working remotely after employees in the office were sent home amid a possible COVID-19 outbreak. El Paso County Health was notified of the potential outbreak on Nov. 12, The Gazette reported on Friday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Public Defender’s Office chose to be proactive and requested that their employees go to virtual or remote work in order to control potential spread of disease in their office,” health department spokeswoman Michelle Beyrle wrote in an emailed statement to The Gazette.

The county health agency is still working to determine how many people at the office tested positive for coronavirus to determine if it is a confirmed outbreak, Beyrle said.

Nearly three weeks ago a seven-person COVID-19 outbreak was reported within the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s office. Not all employees within the district attorney’s office shifted to remote work during the outbreak, and prosecutors continued to appear in court in the days before and after the outbreak was declared.

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