Not for the first time in recent weeks, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Friday he was "asking, urging, pleading" with residents to wear masks, socially distance and stay home so the capital city can avoid a shutdown order.
"I know this is hard, I know you hate this, I hate this," he said at a news conference. "But we’re doing our best to avoid a complete shutdown of our economy, and as the governor put it the other day, a catastrophic breach of our health care system."
Earlier this week, Gov. Jared Polis unveiled a new risk category; previously, Denver was in the second-worst category and, based on its metrics, was on the brink of a stay-at-home order.
But Polis' update avoided that, while piling on new restrictions. Indoor dining is now prohibited, more capacity restrictions have been placed upon offices, gyms and other publicly accessible buildings, and establishments now must announce last call for alcohol at 8 p.m.
Should cases continue to climb here and with hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed, Denver will face a potential shutdown. Hancock told reporters that compliance with the latest restrictions is the city and county's chance to avoid another shelter-in-place mandate.
The situation facing hospitals continues to worsen daily.
Hospitalizations are at an all-time high for the pandemic, with 86% of ICU beds statewide in use. Statewide, 1,645 confirmed and suspected patients are hospitalized with the virus, nearly 200 more than the April peak.
While only a fifth of occupied beds are taken by suspected or confirmed COVID patients, this new influx of cases represent the straw that may break the camels' backs. According to state data, there are only 26 ICU beds -- out of 250 -- in the four counties west of Denver. In Denver's area, which includes the county and those surrounding it to the north, south and east, 893 of the region's 1,004 ICU beds are currently occupied.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, officials across the state have repeatedly warned against large gatherings, particularly with anyone outside of a singular immediate household. The new restrictions block gatherings of any size, and Hancock said he was planning on having dinner with his household and then would have a video call with the rest of his family.
The mayor called this current moment "the hardest days of the pandemic," which threatens not only another lockdown but more deaths and "further devastation to our economy."
He said officials were looking at ways to boost local businesses, including via a platform designed to help Denverites find stores within their neighborhoods at which they can shop for various products.
Bob McDonald, the executive director of Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment, added his voice to the clarion call sounded by other officials statewide of late: Hospitals are struggling to keep up, and staffing levels are emerging as the primary concern.
Four percent of the state's hospitals report they're projecting a staff shortage in the next week, while 14% say they'll hit ICU capacity over that same time period.
He also sought to quell any concerns about vaccines. In the past week, Pfizer and Moderna both released promising results about their vaccines, which have high rates of efficacy and may be available in the near future, and McDonald addressed concerns about the speed at which the vaccines have been developed.
COVID-19 is a cousin of SARS, for which scientists were already attempting to develop a vaccine. They thus didn't have to start from scratch, he said.
Because of the good news on vaccines, McDonald said Denver is "in for a rough few months here, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel."