Utah’s ICU Beds Approaching Functional Capacity

Nov 11, 2020, 8:19 PM | Updated: 11:49 pm

MURRAY, Utah – Health officials warned on Wednesday that intensive care unit capacity in Utah hospitals continued to approach the “functionally full” level that has the possibility of overwhelming our hospital system.

There are currently 446 Utah patients hospitalized for confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Utah Department of Health. Of those patients, 182 are in ICUs.

At the 16 Utah hospitals that are considered referral centers because they provide the best care for patients with COVID-19, the ICUs are at 82% utilization. That’s just shy of the 85% threshold that means Utah is functionally out of staffed ICU beds. 

“That’s really getting to the point where we’re going to have a significant problem on our hands,” said Tom Hudachko, director of communications for the Utah Department of Health. “Once we start to see that reaching 85 to 87%, we’ve essentially maxed out, because even though you’re not at 100%, it becomes an issue of staffing as well.” 

The ICU capacity situation is only slightly better — at a 76% ICU utilization rate — when considering all hospitals in Utah. However, the state health department said the 16 referral centers’ utilization rate of 82% is the best measure of true ICU bed capacity. 


“If you live in rural areas of the state and you contract COVID-19 and you become severely ill, there’s a good chance you’re going to be transferred to an ICU outside of your area,” Hudachko said. 

Preventing hospital overcrowding was the main reason for Gov. Gary Herbert’s new state of emergency and statewide mask mandate issued on Sunday. 

“To make a real difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and turning around the dire situation in our hospitals, we all need to do more,” Herbert said in a statement, adding that overworked health care workers “desperately need our help.” 

Over the past two months, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Utah have increased 400%, according to the health department. Doctors said COVID-19 patients put more of a strain on hospital workers because of the amount of care required. 

“Pretty soon, you actually have to start looking at the possibility that you will not be able to provide that level of care for someone who possibly is dying because it will take so many resources — that it will take away from one, two, three other patients,” said Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease physician at Intermountain Healthcare. 

The state health department warned last week that if the situation worsens, rural hospitals may not have the option to transfer serious patients to referral hospitals. 

“And even at referral hospitals, patients will increasingly be cared for by doctors and nurses who are acting outside their specialty and/or are caring for more patients than is ideal,” department officials said.

KSL 5 TV Live


FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests indicating a positive result are photographed in New York, April...

Will Weissert

Biden administration announces $600M to produce COVID tests and will reopen website to order them

The Biden administration has announced that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and allowing Americans to order up to four free tests per household.

2 days ago

COVID tests sent over to Catherine Thompson without her asking for them....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Feds warn of evolving scam targeting Medicare users by sending unwanted COVID test kits

KSL Investigators have been hearing from Utahns that COVID-19 test kits are showing up in their mailboxes, out-of-the-blue.

5 days ago

electron microscope image of VOVID virus...

Kaigan Mears Bigler,

Utah Health panel provides update on latest COVID-19 developments

The COVID-19 virus keeps changing and cases are on the rise, but Utah doctors say recent developments in the fight against COVID-19 are positive.

8 days ago

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (KSL TV)...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Have an expired COVID-19 test? It might still be good to use, as cases rise in Utah

Doctor's offices and health departments are waiting on the approval of a new COVID-19 vaccine booster, which is on the cusp of distribution while new cases begin to rise in Utah.

12 days ago

This photo provided by Pfizer in September 2023 shows single-dose vials of the company's updated CO...

Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer

US approves updated COVID vaccines to rev up protection this fall

U.S. regulators have approved updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, shots aimed at revving up protection this fall and winter.

12 days ago

Gordon Hunter Pedersen  as seen on his YouTube channel, promoting his allegedly fake product "Silve...

Mary Culbertson

Utah-based ‘fake doctor’ arrested after three-year manhunt

A man fled after he was indicted by federal court in 2020 for selling falsified vaccinations online

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

rodeo contestant on a saddle bronc...


Get Ready for the Days of ‘47 Rodeo!

The Days of '47 Rodeo is a series of events everyone in the family can enjoy, with world-class rodeo contestants vying for the gold medal.

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home...

Lighting Design

How to Know When to Upgrade Your Lighting

This guide explores indicators that suggest it’s time for a lighting upgrade with tips to make an informed decision when you’re ready to buy. 

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Utah’s ICU Beds Approaching Functional Capacity