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Utah COVID-19 hospitalizations lower, doctor urges caution over Christmas

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Over the past few weeks, Utah has been seeing fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations and lower community spread. Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Eddie Stenehjem believes the trends are clear.

To ensure Utah COVID-19 hospitalizations don’t rise, Stenehjem suggests keeping groups small over Christmas. 

More than 11,000 people in Utah are now vaccinated.

However, during a virtual news conference on Wednesday, he also asked people not to gather in large groups over Christmas. 

This is because Utah’s healthcare system is not out of the woods yet.

“Our ICU capacity, in both our referral centers and general ICUs, is still really high. I mean, they’re better. It was 102% [full] earlier this week, they’re now down to 90%. That’s a measure that’s going to take a while for it to get better,” Stenehjem said. 

Hospitalizations, while down, are also still a worry. 

“If you look at our hospitalization trends…they’re still really high. But they’re not going up,” Stenehjem said.

Fewer people have been getting COVID-19 tests, something that concerns doctors. 

“We’re likely missing a lot of active cases,” Stenehjem said. 

COVID-19 death counts are also expected to be high for a while because they lag behind cases and hospitalizations.

To keep cases on a downward trend, Stenehjem recommended Utahns do what they did over Thanksgiving and stay home.  

“If you do choose to gather, be really careful in terms of who you gather with,” Stenehjem said. “Don’t gather with people who are at high-risk or have exposure to high-risk people.”