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Doctors Worried About Surge In COVID Cases, Hospitalizations In Utah

MURRAY, Utah — New cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations continue to surge in Utah at rates not seen in six months. ICUs in Utah are again at capacity, and doctors at Intermountain Healthcare said we’re in trouble if this trend continues.

“It’s certainly a disturbing trend of the direction we’re headed,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases physician with Intermountain Healthcare. “We hope that we can change course, especially as we’re thinking about school going back in session here.”

Utah currently has the 11th highest rate of new COVID cases per 100,000 people in the country. The Delta variant continues to fuel the surge, overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated.

In a media briefing Friday, Stenehjem said concern is rising that the Delta variant may be more potent, cause more severe disease and spread more easily than previously thought.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the Delta variant spreads more easily than the flu and is as infectious as chickenpox.

Stenehjem said Utah hospitals are now at capacity, and he hopes we can reverse this trend, especially with school starting in the next month.

Vaccinations have risen during the last couple of days, but only half of Utah’s population is fully vaccinated.

While the vaccines are not perfect, Stenehjem said they have proven effective against the Delta variant.

“Vaccines prevent cases, they prevent prevent hospitalizations, they prevent deaths,” he said. “This isn’t rocket science. This is what we would expect in terms of the epidemiology of the virus across the U.S. The lower the vaccine rate, the higher the number of cases you’re going to have.”

The CDC again recommends masking up indoors if you are in a place of high transmission, even if you are fully vaccinated. That means Utahns should wear masks indoors throughout most of the state.

Stenehjem said he and his family are back to wearing masks indoors in public. That’s because the Delta variant is so highly transmissible and because people who are vaccinated can still transmit the infection as well as an unvaccinated person.

State leaders do not plan to return to any mask mandate. Rather, they are urging everyone to get vaccinated.

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