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Gov. Herbert Worried About ICU Beds, National Guard Readies Field Hospital

Gov. Gary Herbert discusses the new COVID-19 guidance system. (KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Governor Gary Herbert laid out the growing ICU bed situation in Utah as the state continues to deal with a troublesome spike in COVID-19 cases. These past few months have been rough, the governor said during a situational update at the Utah State Capitol Tuesday.

“Utah is now facing its most dire episode yet in this epidemic and frankly, it doesn’t matter how tired we are. We must, in fact, win this fight,” Herbert said. “Unfortunately, over the last four weeks, we’ve seen our infection rates in case counts skyrocket to the highest they have ever been. Our case counts have hovered around 1,000 a day, our percent positivity is now over 13% and, worst of all, our hospitals are getting overwhelmed and our health care workers are getting stretched too thin to provide the best possible care.”

The state is using 15.8% of ICU beds to treat coronavirus patients and 69.6% of the state’s ICU beds were being used as of Tuesday. The University of Utah Hospital is using 95% of its ICU beds.

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“At this very moment our Utah Department of Health and the National Guard are on standby to open up a field hospital at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy,” Herbert announced.

The center was briefly prepared for a possible overflow from hospitals in April.

Herbert also said hospitals are now load-leveling, which means they are shifting patients between hospitals and health systems.

He reiterated his optimism that Utahns will rally and overcome the current situation and laid out the state’s early success in fighting the pandemic: keeping positive cases low, keeping the number of coronavirus patients in ICU beds low and keeping the economy open.

“Although we had to stay apart, we worked together and if you were like me, you believe that a short season of sacrifice would allow us to win in the long term,” Herbert said. “I, like you, am tired of 2020. I’m tired of emergencies and social distancing, of the loneliness, the anxiety, and the worry that each of us faces and most especially, the heartbreaking loss this virus has inflicted on families who have lost loved ones.”

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