University Of Utah Health Officials Focus On Keeping Frontline Workers Healthy

Nov 13, 2020, 6:59 PM | Updated: Jul 12, 2023, 5:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As COVID-19 hospitalizations surge in Utah, one of the greatest concerns is the health of the frontline health care workers.

Dr. Thomas Miller, chief medical officer at University of Utah Health, said he’s focused on that every day and is optimistic a vaccine will make a difference soon.

“Masks are our best medicine until we have a really good vaccine,” Miller said.

Miller has worked in that hospital system for more than 30 years. He said he worries about the health of his staff, but added masks are working until a vaccine arrives.

Miller manages a team of physicians and staff charged with giving the best care possible. Every day, he makes sure COVID-19 units are safe for patients and staff.

Caregivers are still catching COVID-19, but not as readily as those on the outside.

“We have a positivity rate of COVID among our employees that is about half of what it is in the community,” he said.

Miller believes that’s because the hospital instituted universal masking several months ago.

“Our rate of infectivity between employees, or between patients and employees, either way, back-and-forth is very low,” he said. “It’s when we take those masks off and we sit in rooms and have lunch and talk to each other and we think we’re safe, that’s when COVID transmits. So, we know the masks work.”

Miller said he’s optimistic a vaccine will arrive anywhere from mid-December to January, after it is deemed safe by two independent boards.

“This is the fastest development of a vaccine ever in the history of the world,” he said.

Typically, it takes years.

Miller said new technology will also enable companies to make more vaccines faster when it is approved, adding that hospitals can start vaccinating their people before expanding the distribution based on health priorities.

“Help is on the way,” the doctor said.

But, it could be another six months or so before the entire population can be vaccinated, so he said people will need to be patient as the distribution is rolled out in waves.

“We’ve never been in a time where we’ve been able to create a vaccine this quickly,” he said. “It’s still going to take a few more months and that’s still going to be a frustrating time. It is still the time where we need to learn to wear these masks.”

As awkward as it may seem, Miller said we still need to mask up any time we are with people who are not from our immediate households.

KSL 5 TV Live


A sign reminding Copper Hills High School students and staff to keep their hands clean during the c...

Lindsay Aerts

Utah school districts working to prioritize what stays when COVID relief money runs dry

Utah's school districts are working to figure out how they will continue to pay for programs propped up by COVID-19 relief funds.

10 days ago

FILE: Former Utah Jazz John Stockton reacts during a 76-70 Wichita State win over the Gonzaga Bulld...

Michael Houck

Former Utah Jazz star John Stockton sues Washington medical director about COVID misinformation policy

Former Utah Jazz superstar John Stockton has filed a federal lawsuit against Washington officials on First Amendment violations, arguing the state's policy of COVID-19 misinformation is unconstitutional.

2 months ago

Deer Creek Reservoir...

Alex Cabrero

State parks expecting another record visitation year, hiring more workers

It didn't matter how cold or snowy it was at Deer Creek State Park Friday afternoon. Nothing was going to stop Leonard Sawyer from taking his boat out to do a little fishing.

3 months ago

FILE —  Respiratory virus illness activity continues to increase across the US.
(Joe Burbank/Orl...

Emma Benson

‘Not viruses to mess around with’: Experts urge caution during ongoing ‘tripledemic’

Experts say though not as severe as last year, this winter we're seeing another "tripledemic" – rising cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV in Utah.

4 months ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Emma Benson

‘The ICUs are full:’ Keep yourself and others healthy this holiday

It's time for holiday gatherings, but with more people around us comes a greater risk of getting sick.

5 months ago

Julianna Preece goes through the mountain of medical documents she's acquired for her health condit...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Herriman couple is suing CVS, says 5x Covid vaccine dose mistake caused health problems

A couple is suing a Utah CVS vaccination clinic, saying a nurse’s mistake led to the wife receiving five times the normal COVID-19 vaccine dose and caused serious health issues she’s still dealing with today.

6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

University Of Utah Health Officials Focus On Keeping Frontline Workers Healthy