Gov. Cox: Utah seeing concern COVID-19 trends, rising hospitalizations

Aug 31, 2021, 2:35 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — The state’s health care system is overwhelmed and for the first time during the pandemic, Gov. Spencer Cox said there were zero ICU beds available in the state.

Cox appeared at the Utah Capitol with other health leaders for a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.

Cox said just last week, a rural hospital asked two hospitals if they could transfer a patient in critical condition – but it was denied.

Fortunately, hours later, one opened up at a metro hospital.

He said getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent hospitalizations, and he has been encouraged by rising vaccine numbers over the past three and a half weeks. However, he’s discouraged that there are still 1.5 million people who do not have the vaccine.

The governor noted many of those are children who are not yet eligible.

“Unfortunately, over those past three-plus weeks, those hospitalizations continue to rise,” Cox said. “The number of cases continues to rise. Of course, the number of cases continues to rise, and we find ourselves at the breaking point of our hospitalizations.”

Health leaders are also concerned about children being back in school. They say cases among school-aged children are 3.5 times higher than what Utah saw at the beginning of the last school year.

And there’s a potential for 39,000 cases in September alone.

“There are three reasons for this — we are starting at a higher level; we have the delta variant, which is five times more transmissible than other variants, and we almost have no masks in school this year,” said Dr. Michelle Hoffman, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health.

Cox said Utah needs young people to get vaccinated to slow the spread. Only 38% of children ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Health leaders also noted the heavy emotional toll this second wave is having on health care workers. Nurses are stressed – losing patients to a disease they say is preventable.

They urged everyone to stamp out misinformation, get vaccinated and wear a mask.

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Gov. Cox: Utah seeing concern COVID-19 trends, rising hospitalizations