U. Doctor: ‘It Is Not The Time To Be Traveling’

Dec 4, 2020, 9:42 PM
Dr. Mark Supiano, chief of the division of geriatrics at University of Utah Health. (KSL-TV)...
Dr. Mark Supiano, chief of the division of geriatrics at University of Utah Health. (KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The pandemic is taking a terrible toll on the elderly in Utah, with Governor Gary Herbert calling it a tragedy in his weekly COVID-19 address on Thursday.

Since the pandemic started, Utahns have been warned to protect the elderly from COVID-19. A couple of experts on elderly health from the University of Utah, who are a married couple, hope their revised holiday plan is one that others can follow.

“As difficult as this is, we can personally attest to, this is not the time to be letting down your guard, and certainly not the time to be traveling,” said Dr. Mark Supiano, chief of the division of geriatrics at University of Utah Health.

His wife, Kathie Supiano, is a licensed clinical social worker and director of caring connections in the U of U College of Nursing.

They fear pandemic fatigue will lead to dangerous family gatherings that include older adults.

“The risk to everyone, and particularly to older adults right now, today is as high in Utah as it has ever been,” said Mark Supiano.

Of the 925 COVID-related deaths in Utah reported as of Thursday, 76% were people 65 and older. The elderly make up 12% of Utah’s population, and about two-thirds of those people lived in nursing homes.

“Unfortunately, we are continuing to spread the disease to people who can’t handle the serious effects,” Herbert said Thursday, adding that far too many grandparents have died. “That’s a tragedy for a state that considers themselves very, very family-oriented and very family-friendly.”

To protect that vulnerable population, “You really should not be planning to travel over the Christmas holiday,” Supiano said. “This is painfully acute to Kathy and me.”

They are expecting their fifth granddaughter in Texas between Christmas and New Year’s, but they have canceled travel plans because of the virus.

“The reality is, we know that we will not be able to travel to see her for some time,” Supiano said.

“I just invite people to consider how they would feel if they were the vector that brought down members of their own family,” said Kathie Supiano. “People really need to accept that with that level of responsibility.”

They’re urging Utahns to put the good of our community ahead of what we want for ourselves right now and find ways to connect creatively with older members of our families.

“These are solvable problems, and thank goodness for technology,” she said. “So, I really encourage us to be creative.”

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U. Doctor: ‘It Is Not The Time To Be Traveling’