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Doctors urge Utahns to follow COVID-19 mandates, saying hospitals are at ‘tipping point’ of being overwhelmed

(Two workers treating a COVID-19 patient at University of Utah Hospital. Credit: Charlie Ehlert, University of Utah Health, August 19, 2020)

SALT LAKE CITY – Hospital administrators are hoping everyone will follow the governor’s emergency mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Doctors say Hospitals at the “tipping point” of becoming overwhelmed, and they believe the spread of the virus will slow down as long as people follow the emergency orders.

On Monday, state health officials announced there were 2,247 new COVID-19 cases, along with two more deaths.  That isn’t a record, but doctors are also worried the seven-day rolling average of new cases.  Utah Hospital Association CEO Greg Bell says the current rolling average is 2,437 new cases, per day.  Plus, the seven-day positivity rate has ballooned from 13.5 percent a month ago to 21.25 percent, today.

“The velocity of the spread has increased, remarkably.  It must be checked because we simply cannot the infection rate without severe consequences,” Bell says.

Doctors are very encouraged about the news from Pfizer.  The drug maker announced the early data from the results of their test show it could be 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.  However, Steward Health Care Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arlen Jarrett says it will be a while before the vaccine is available for everyone, which is why people need to follow the mandates.

Jarrett says, “Yesterday, the number of those in our hospitals was double the number we had two weeks ago, and it was five times the number we had in the hospital just two months ago.”

Officials from University of Utah Health say their facilities have become so crowded, they’ve had to cut back on non-critical surgeries.  Chief Nursing Officer Tracey Nixon says nurses are exhausted, both mentally and physically, and the virus is causing serious problems in how many patients they can treat.

“Non-COVID care is going to have to be chipped away at to make room for COVID care,” she says.

The problem isn’t having enough beds.  MountainStar Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Baumann says they have been clearing out space to make room for more beds.  However, he says people may have misconceptions about how full hospitals truly are, since they see a large number of beds not being used.

Baumann says the real issue is staffing.  So, they’re going to start using another measurement to help people understand just how busy they are.

“We’re actually moving to not only listing the physical beds, but moving to an important nuance of just how many beds do we have staffed that we can run,” he says.


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