Southern Utah COVID-19 Cases Surge, Vaccinations Decline
Jul 22, 2021, 4:52 PM | Updated: 7:40 pm
SALT LAKE CITY – Southern Utah’s current COVID-19 surge has nearly filled the Intensive Care Unit with patients at Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.
Doctors said that it has been that way every day this month, and they’ve asked the community for their support to turn back the virus.
New COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in Southwest Utah, while vaccinations are dropping. They want to flip that equation to keep people out of the hospital, save lives, and give hospital workers some relief.
“The overwhelming majority of individuals that are testing positive are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director at Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.
During a news conference Thursday, he said the ICU is more than 90% full every day, with COVID-19 and non-COVID patients. The hospital expanded the ICU for the first time in six months.
“We have not had this number of Covid hospitalizations since the third week in January,” Carroll said. “At that time, we were at a decreasing number of hospitalizations. At this point, we have an increasing number of hospitalizations.”
Doctors and nurses are still caring for patients, but not in the normal ways or places because they have had to expand care outside of the ICU.
“Our nurses are continuing to work extra hours and shifts. We’re asking a lot of them, and it’s difficult,” the medical director said. “They are doing it but they would like a break.”
On the plus side, the elderly have a high vaccination rate in the southwest Utah health district. That also means the average age of those hospitalized today is lower than it was six months ago.
“The majority of patients in the hospital are working-class age,” said Carroll. “These are people that in many cases have kids still at home.“
Community health leaders urged people who have not had a COVID-19 shot to roll up their sleeves.
“Vaccination is not perfect. But, it’s remarkably effective especially in dramatically decreasing your chances of being hospitalized or putting your life in danger,” said David Heaton, Southwest Utah Public Health Department Public Information Officer.
Right now, only 40% of the population in southwest Utah is vaccinated.
“The number one thing that has been effective is vaccination,” said Carroll. “We now have experience in our own state of 1.5 million people that have received the Covid vaccine. We have been able to demonstrate that it is effective.”
He pointed out that millions globally have received the vaccine. While no vaccine is perfect, he said the safety profile is impressive.