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Heath Care Workers Express Concern As Hospitalizations Hit New High

FILE: Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah saw its third-largest daily increase in COVID-19 cases and its highest number of hospitalizations Friday, and health officials are concerned.

“Our hospitalizations are at an all-time high,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare. “The current trajectory that we’re on, it’s not sustainable.”

Since the start of the school year, 15-to-24-year-olds have made up many of the positive cases of COVID-19. More recently, Dr. Stenehjem said there are seeing more cases among 25-to-40-year-olds.

“We predicted and it’s likely coming true that those 15-to-24-year-olds went home and infected mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and their community members,” he said. “Now we’re just seeing really significant community spread leading to these really high case counts and resulting in hospitalizations.”

It’s true hospitals typically see more patients this time of year. But Stenehjem said patients with COVID-19 tend to stay in there longer.

“If we continue to add patients to our hospitals at this rate we’re not going to be able to take care of COVID-19 patients, let alone patients who need treatment for other things,” he said.

Gov. Gary Herbert added his voice of concern after the release of the numbers Friday, saying, “As Utahns, it is our duty to work together to turn things around. We must exercise all necessary precautions and follow all public health guidance.”

“Utahns must wear a mask around others, socially distance, and limit social gathering sizes,” Herbert added. “Unless we do these things, we can expect to see more sobering days like today.”

On Wednesday night, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn tweeted the case fatality ratio in Utah was at 0.61% and dropping.

“That is fantastic,” she wrote, adding that they don’t know why that is. She also noted that hospitalizations are increasing and there are longer-term effects that COVID has on the body.

“We cannot just be looking at the mortality rate. I mean that is such the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Stenehjem said. “Let’s not discount the patients that are in the ICU for weeks on a ventilator.”

The constant emphasis on the virus can be tiring. But as health care workers treat the sick, Stenehjem said it’s up to the community to focus on stopping the spread.

“We’re tired too. We’re utterly exhausted dealing with COVID-19,” Stenehjem said. “If we don’t put in the effort now we’re going to be a lot more tired in a month or two months when our hospitals are fully at capacity and we can’t care for people in the way we want to.”

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