Another 6,439 Coloradans were diagnosed with COVID-19 — nearly double Monday's daily total, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday, warning state residents who continue to ignore the virus's threat that they were playing Russian roulette with their own lives and the lives of others.
"You wouldn't do it with a gun, and you shouldn't do it with the virus," he said, adding that one in 20 who are hospitalized with the virus will die.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there have been 154,038 cases of COVID-19 in the state and 2,504 deaths, a rate of one death per 61 cases.
Polis likened meeting with family members outside of one's household for the holidays, without first quarantining for two weeks, to holding "a loaded pistol to grandma's head."
"That's where we are," he said bluntly.
Friday's diagnosis total was 6,439, up by nearly 2,000 from the prior day's total of 4,591, and up from 3,602 on Monday. Approximately one in 110 Coloradans currently has the virus, Polis said — and as many as one in 58 in Adams County and one in 64 in Denver.
The state's emergency operations center has been ordered to return to level one, its highest level of operation, Polis said, adding that the center operated under such a level from March 1 through the end of May.
He'll soon sign an executive order outlining steps hospitals must take before requesting access to surge facilities, including increasing internal capacity, halting elective procedures and utilizing the state's inter-hospital transfer system, he said.
Hospitals must submit their facilities' surge capacities to the state by Wednesday and a surge plan to the state by Nov. 20. They will now be required to update the state at 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily as to their capacity, he added.
As of Friday, 1,159 Coloradans were hospitalized for COVID-19, Polis said. State officials continue to warn that, according to current projections exceeded by actual data, the state will exceed hospital capacity by next month.
"People will die who could have been saved," including those who require care for non-COVID conditions like heart attacks and strokes, Polis said.
"I continue to hope that we will not use" alternative care sites," Polis said, "but we are prepared to activate them, if necessary — and we are a lot closer to that today than we were two weeks ago, four weeks ago. We stand by ready for action.
"Our north star is, and continues to be, making sure we have available beds."
The state has the ability to stand up three surge centers, he said. The first two to open would be at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, which could immediately take 25 patients and could expand its capacity to 240 within a month, and St. Anthony North Health Campus in Westminster, which could immediately take 25 patients and expand to 78 within a month. The third center to open would be at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, which could take 80 patients upon opening and surge up to 200 in a month. None of the beds are ICU-level, Polis said, but all would be open to noncritical patients and have oxygen capabilities. Such surge beds would free regular hospital beds for more severe patients.
"It's still something our hands — in your hands — if we show the resolve to do so," Polis said, hinting that the need for such facilities was not necessarily inevitable, if Coloradans were to buckle down with precautionary measures.
The goal has never been to eliminate the virus in Colorado, Polis said, adding "that was simply not a possibility here."
"It might have been in Taiwan or New Zealand, island nations that can control the flow, who got on it early," he said. "Our goal has been to manage this and reduce unnecessary loss of life."
And it's not a lost cause, he contended, when asked if Coloradans have the collective will to stem the virus's exponential growth in the state.
"I will never give up on the people of Colorado or our country," he said.
In other Colorado COVID-19 news:
• Over a million Coloradans have opted in to receiving exposure notifications via the state's recently launched app, Polis said. That amounts to more than 17% of the state's population. Research out of Oxford University indicates that when more than 15% of a population opts in, an 8% reduction in infections and 6% reduction in deaths should be seen, Polis said.
• Coloradans who will attend family holiday gatherings outside their household should begin quarantine now, Polis said, adding that such gatherings are not advisable.
• Shopping at stores is still relatively safe, Polis said, adding that the virus is mostly spread through 10- to 15- minute interactions indoors, especially without masks.
• The state hopes to soon make available instant COVID tests to frontline workers like teachers and restaurant workers. It has already distributed 400,000 to such frontline workers as firefighters and staffers at youth detention centers, he said.
• Now is a substantially better time to get the virus than it was in March, Polis said, adding that survival is much more likely than it was in January or February. The odds of surviving "only get better with time and treatment (advances), which is another reason to take precaution now," he added. While cases are higher than they've ever been in the state, deaths have not surpassed their peak in April. This is likely due to multiple factors, including a recent surge of cases in younger groups, which tend to fare better with the virus, and advances in treatment. The 80+ age group continues to bear the brunt of deaths, followed by those in their 60s and 70s, then those in their 50s, according to state data.
NOTE: This story originally said that 1 in 20 who contracted the virus will die. What the governor actually said was that 1 in 20 who are hospitalized with the virus will die.