Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks to the press as he visits a mass vaccination site at Coors Field baseball stadium on January 30, 2021, in Denver, Colorado ( AFP / Chet Strange)

Colorado governor’s order targets hospital crowding, not unvaccinated patients

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Social media posts and online articles claim Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order to let hospitals turn away unvaccinated patients. But the text of the order says that people can be sent to other facilities or denied admission due to capacity issues, not based on Covid-19 vaccination status, and the governor's office and a hospital association in the western US state say the claim is inaccurate.

"Colorado's Democrat Governor Signs Executive Order To Turn Away UNVACCINATED From Hospitals," says a November 9, 2021 tweet linking to an article making the same claim.

Screenshot of a tweet taken on November 16, 2021

The claim -- part of a flood of inaccurate information about vaccines circulating online -- also appeared on Instagram and in similar online articles here and here.

The Centennial State has been hit by rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, putting pressure on health facilities. Officials issued a public health advisory on November 5 "due to steadily increasing cases and a concern for hospital bed capacity."

The October 31 executive order signed by Polis authorized the Colorado Department of Health to relocate or deny admission to patients based on facility capacity.

"The transfer of patients from hospitals that have reached capacity or are reasonably anticipated to reach capacity to other specified care facilities will help to ensure that Coloradans have adequate care as we continue to combat Covid-19," it says.

The governor's deputy press secretary, Victoria Graham, said the order is meant to "help hospitals free up capacity and ease strain on the health care system as Covid hospitalizations rise across the state," and does not "have anything to do with vaccination status."

Cara Welch, spokeswoman for Colorado Hospital Association, an organization that represents more than 100 health facilities in the state, also dismissed the claim, saying: "There is absolutely no mention of treatment or lack of treatment for unvaccinated individuals in the executive order, and hospitals are not turning away patients based on vaccination status."

"In Colorado, our hospital capacity for ICU and acute care beds has been above 90 percent for a month now, which is incredibly concerning," she said.

And Kelli Christensen, spokeswoman for hospital network UC Health, said that facilities cannot refuse admission to people who have not been vaccinated.

"There is no executive order in Colorado that directs hospitals to turn away unvaccinated patients," she said.

Federal law requires emergency facilities to administer care "in a non-discriminatory manner to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay, insurance status, national origin, race, creed or color," according to a fact sheet from the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Colorado health authorities have urged residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19, calling the shots "the most effective way to prevent Covid-19 infection and hospitalizations."

AFP Fact Check has debunked other false or misleading claims related to Covid-19 here.