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Utah Hospitals Warn COVID-19 Surge May Overwhelm Hospital Staff, Resources

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah –  Officials with the Utah Hospital Association said hospital resources will be overwhelmed by the end of the month if the state continues to see COVID-19 cases at the current rate.

Utah reported a single-day record 722 new virus cases and seven deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 201. A total of 24.8 percent of the total test results (2,911) reported for Wednesday came back positive.

Greg Bell, president and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association, said while hospitals may not run out of ICU beds, they will experience shortages in medical personnel and technicians with proper training to treat COVID-19 patients. 

Bell pointed to what neighbors in Arizona are experiencing with a huge spike in cases, saying doctors there were beginning to invoke crisis standards of care, and rationing medical supplies. 

Earlier this week, the UHA sent a letter to state leaders asking them to adopt a rule requiring face masks statewide, which read in part:

“As Utah has re-opened our economy, we have been pleased to see the resurgence of economic activity and return of many normal activities. Unfortunately, we have also seen a serious increase of infection. That increase is bringing impacts on hospitals and health care professionals which are unsustainable. Although average length of hospital stay and the mortality rate are improving, we are alarmed at the caseload we project in the coming weeks and months.”

He said wearing face masks is the only sure way we currently have to slow the spread and keep the economy open.

“Mostly we are just very alarmed about the trend,” said Bell. “It’s an unsustainable trend, and the projection just shows that by the end of the month, we are going to be in trouble.”

Bell said that if 90 percent of the public wears a face mask, then the state can lower the infection rate from 1.6 percent to 0.6 percent, which could make a huge difference in saving lives.

He also said for every confirmed case of COVID-19, there are 2.4 unknown or asymptomatic cases, meaning we are still far from herd immunity.

Bell added with face masks, Utahns can keep businesses open and contribute to the overall health of the economy.

“We could all avoid all the hardship we went through in March and April,” Bell said. “Then people have to start realizing, wait a minute, it’s a fairly small sacrifice to wear a mask, if I can keep the economy open and we can open our schools and function somewhat normally.”

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