GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KREX) — Dr. Michelle Hundley, says, “We feel this is the highest single cause of death in our veterans that we’ve ever seen.” Since the onset of the pandemic, the VA of Western Colorado says COVID-19 has killed 83 veterans.

Limited hospital capacity is making it difficult for veterans to get care and lately it’s striking younger vets.

Dr. Hundley also says, “we’re starting to see more of the 20, 30, 40, 50 year old’s who don’t have a lot of health problems that are coming down with COVID and ending up hospitalized.”

Mesa County Health Department COVID dashboard shows 95.4 percent of Mesa County Hospital beds are at capacity right now.

The VA had enough beds early in the pandemic that it opened up to the community, but that’s changed as more health care workers are now sick.

Dr. Hundley added, “now in the last month it’s been pretty tight just because so many staff that are out ill as well as veterans that are ill.  Bed capacity has been touch and go for about two months, which has been the same for the community.”

Vaccinations are key to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at the VA and across the county. There are also two forms of oral treatments to help vets battle severe illness. A lack of supply means the Western Slope could be last in line.

Dr. Hundley also says, “the supply is going to be the limiting factor right now.” Health care workers across Mesa County had to be vaccinated by January 4th or risk their losing, per a state order.

Dr. Hundley added, “our employees had to meet a mandate date to be vaccinated.  The first deadline was October, and the second deadline was November.”

The federal deadline came quicker, possibly putting VA employees in a better position to fight the beast.