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Colombian capital faces hospital capacity shortage with strict measures

Colombia's COVID-19 cases rise amid wait for vaccine in February
Colombia's COVID-19 cases rise amid wait for vaccine in February

BOGOTA, Colombia – A new rise in coronavirus cases is challenging hospital capacity and prompting officials in Bogota, Colombia to enforce drastic measures.

Health officials reported more than 1.8 million coronavirus infections and 46,451 COVID-19 deaths in Colombia. Hospital capacity in Bogota at intensive care units for COVID-19 patients was at 91.5% on Monday. Patients continued to arrive.

“They are downstairs in the emergency room waiting for a bed,” Nurse Olga Barrera said.

Hospitals are counting on Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez to help control the spread. She imposed a citywide lockdown on Jan. 8 that ends on Tuesday, but it will continue for neighborhoods with more cases reported.

For instance, Suba, Usaquen, and Engativa will be on lockdown until Jan. 18 and Teusaquillo, Kennedy, and Fontibon until Jan. 22. Non-essential businesses closed and only one person per residence is able to leave for essentials.

For the areas where the lockdown will be lifted, Lopez imposed a strict 8 p.m. curfew and she limited pedestrian traffic by only allowing a certain portion of the population to leave their homes. She is implementing the measure by using the numbers of each resident’s identification.

Despite all of the measures, Dr. Rodolfo Dennis, an internal medicine specialist a the Fundacion Cardioinfantil, is still expecting the rise in cases to continue.

“We think that it’s going to get a little bit worse before it gets better,” Dennis said.

Not every COVID-19 patient can wait in the emergency room for an ICU bed. COVID-19, a systemic inflammatory disease, is not always a lung and respiratory issue. In some cases, it causes myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and blood clots, so with the rise in COVID-19 cases, comes the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Juan Cendales, the director of the Fundacion Cardioinfantil, said the hospital, which treats both children and adults, has been able to tend to all of the patients so far, but the staff there has been overwhelmed.

“We are doing our best,” Cendales said

Nurse Paola Gonzalez, who works at the hospital, said facing the deadly coronavirus pandemic in Bogota has taken its toll both emotionally and physically.

“It’s exhausting,” Gonzalez said.

Colombia’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign won’t begin until February.

Torres contributed to this report from Miami.

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.