With an additional 12 new COVID-19 cases reported today, and signals of distress from partnering hospitals, doctors at the Telluride Regional Medical Center have an urgent plea to locals: Stay home.

Regional COVID-19 hospitalizations are at all-time highs — and with Colorado’s third wave putting some hospitals at or beyond capacity — doctors at the Telluride Med Center are hoping to appeal directly to residents to flatten the local curve to protect the overall health and well-being of the community.

“It is paramount every one of us do our part to flatten this incoming curve. We’re asking for extraordinary personal responsibility and austere changes to behavior,” said Dr. Diana Koelliker, director of emergency services.

“Stop traveling. Stop gathering. Stop going to work or school with symptoms,” said Dr. Christine Mahoney, director of Primary Care.

For nine months medical staff at the Telluride clinic have built out their testing tools, protocols and ability to meet the needs of the community. “We’re so much more prepared this winter to meet the demands of this virus,” said Dr. Koelliker. “But we must change this current trajectory now.”

“Everyone of us has to do our part to flatten the curve — that hasn’t changed.”

Positive cases are announced by San Miguel County Public Health. Thirteen new cases were reported earlier this week and an additional 12 cases were received last night, per a social media post published by the organization today.

The Medical Center reports their own COVID-19 test positivity rate is currently at 6 percent, the goal according to Dr. Mahoney, is less than one percent.

In some surrounding counties, positivity rates are reaching 20 percent.

“It’s a terrifying trend but already regional hospitals are near or at capacity,” said Dr. Koelliker.

On Friday, for the first time during this pandemic and for the first time ever, some regional and state hospitals went so far as to communicate they could not admit any incoming patients from outside facilities, including the Telluride clinic.

“The status is called ‘On Divert,’ and that’s exactly what our partners at St. Mary’s in Grand Junction, told us on Friday,” said Dr. Koelliker.

The Telluride Regional Medical Center, which is a Level V Trauma Center, counts on regional partners like St. Mary’s and Montrose Memorial Hospital to take ill or injured patients needing hospitalization or surgery.

“Now is the time that our entire state must change its current trajectory in order to protect each other, the healthcare system and its workers,” said Dr. Koelliker.

The health of the local economy, ski season and schools are married to the clinic’s ability to respond to the pandemic’s demands.

“Imagine a scenario where there’s been an accident and you’ve broken your femur or pelvis. You’d be evaluated and stabilized at our Emergency department, but if Montrose Memorial Hospital is full and St. Mary’s is ‘On Divert,” we’re now looking at an aeromedical transport to another hospital in Denver or perhaps even outside Colorado if instate hospitals were full.”

Dr. Koelliker is hopeful that the ski resort, the economy and local schools can stay open, but acknowledged “we can’t invite people into the community to take part in high-risk activities if we aren’t able to care for them when they’re injured or sick.”

The hospital capacity issues already coming to a head, according to Dr. Koelliker, are due to a combination of bed capacity and staffing shortages. “Unless our state drastically changes the current trajectory, we’re going to see serious consequences trickling down through all healthcare channels by this time next month.”

On Tuesday, San Miguel County Public Health escalated the county’s status from a low-risk yellow designation to high-risk orange, a change that affects indoor capacity at some businesses, urges more caution and smaller gatherings amongst residents and for individuals to cancel non-essential travel plans for the foreseeable future. [More here].

On Thursday, the National Guard will be assisting the county in administering free COVID-19 swab testing from from 7 am to 5 pm. This drive-thru clinic will be located at the county intercept lot at 130 Society Drive in Lawson Hill. More info on testing here.

For their own part, later this month the Telluride Regional Medical Center will begin seeing patients with respiratory symptoms at the adjacent Telluride Depot building, rather than the outdoor respiratory tents they’ve used since March.

The indoor respiratory clinic will help medical teams increase capacity to safely and efficiently meet the demands of the community throughout the pandemic, while also preserving the medical center as a safe place to maintain non-COVID-19 healthcare services.

“We are doing everything in our power to control what we can, we’re counting on individuals to join us in taking every possible precaution. Our commitment to exceptional care is unwavering, but we need everyone to do their part. The time is now.”