Roundup: COVID-19 upsurge triggers military action in Colorado on Thanksgiving

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by Peter Mertz

FORT COLLINS, the United States, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Government officials in the U.S. state Colorado were so alarmed by the dramatic uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past month they called in the military to help this Thanksgiving.

"From combat zones to deployment in uniform, gas masks, and shields on the critical care floor, 20 DOD (Department of Defense) response team members are currently supporting the staff at UC Health Poudre Valley Hospital," local KDVR News reported Friday.

On Thursday, America's most sacred family holiday, Thanksgiving, had uniformed U.S. Army soldiers helping at hospitals across the state, "to keep the doors open because ICUs (Intensive Care Units) had reached capacity," KDVR News said.

In Fort Collins, home of Colorado State University and its 34,000 students, UC health Poudre Valley Chief Operating Officer Ryan Rohman told KDVR that approximately "95 percent of his patients in the critical care unit were unvaccinated," and, "I would say that the light at the end of the tunnel is more dim than it was in the past."

Rohman underscored the involvement of the military in Colorado's COVID-19 relief efforts by saying, "it's a scenario I thought I would never be in as a hospital administrator - that I would be seeking help from the Department of Defense."

Gratitude for America's military help flowed from all quarters on Thanksgiving Day, highlighted by Rohman's comments that he was "so appreciative that they are here to help us."

"They help us with every capacity in there as an inpatient hero, really," Megan Tschacher, the hospital's charge nurse in intensive care unit said.

The recent resurgence of the deadly virus in the Centennial State has dismayed both government and health officials alike.

On July 17, no new cases had been reported across the state, and the seven-day average was 36. Within 90 days, that figure had leaped to 261 cases on Nov. 10, with a seven day average of 315, according to statistics from the New York Times.

On Wednesday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock implemented a Vax or Mask Mandate, renewing a COVID-19 mask mandate requiring face coverings for businesses and other indoor public spaces until Jan. 3, unless venues check vaccine cards at the door, according to Fortune.

"Despite having 76 percent of residents having at least one vaccine dose, Denver hospitals are currently at 95 percent capacity," the report noted.

"The health care system is on the brink of collapse," Robin Wittenstein, CEO of Denver Health, told Fortune.

With hospital beds filled, Colorado Governor Jared Polis told the media the state "is on track to add 500 hospital beds for both acute and step down care to ease the strain on the health care system by mid-December," Fortune noted.

"Anyone 5 years and older is eligible to get a Covid vaccine," and booster doses are available and recommended for adults 18 and older, the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPH) posted on its website Friday, as the Centennial State continued an aggressive approach towards curbing the recent escalation.

Colorado has suffered almost 10,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic and a total of 826,000 COVID-19 cases.

Most alarming has been the recent increase cases among children, jumping "40 percent from a month ago when the state recorded 3,361 cases among those under the age of 18," according to the Denver Post.

However, between Nov.14 to 21, cases dropped almost 7 percent from the "5,061 cases in the previous week," according to the CDPH.

Officials said the aggressive statewide campaign to vaccinate children will continue to have a positive effect on these declining numbers.

However, "this isn't the time to assume things are getting better," Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for CDPH, told the Post.

Nationally, "infections among children increased 32 percent in the past week, with almost 142,000 American children testing positive for Covid in the week ending on Nov. 18, according to a report this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

On Thanksgiving, no new cases were reported across Colorado, and officials held their breaths and crossed their fingers that the decline will continue.

Polis again gained statewide accolades by bringing in the U.S. Army to assist hospitals.

"Being able to help out is an honor," U.S. Army First Lieutenant Anthony Albina told KDVR.

Military staff have injected new life into overwhelmed nurses who are "overworked with nurses taking care of three or sometimes four critical care patients at a time," Tschacher said.

"The fact they can come in and just fire in there and take care of patients really helped our nurses have somewhat of a break ... they can take some weight off of our shoulders and we can breathe a little," Tschacher added. Enditem

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