Utah hospitals bracing for post-Labor Day surge in COVID cases

Sep 9, 2021, 1:40 PM | Updated: 2:06 pm

MURRAY, Utah — Doctors and nurses in Utah hospitals said they are bracing for a surge in COVID-19 following Labor Day weekend.

With many people traveling and taking minimal precautions, Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious diseases doctor at Intermountain Medical Center, said a surge is likely. He urged everyone to take precautions and get tested if they think they’ve been exposed.

The ICUs at all of Utah’s major hospitals remain full with COVID-19 and non-COVID patients. As the delta variant spreads, Intermountain Healthcare’s ICUs are at 99% capacity, and they’re expecting more patients.

“Historically, any time we’ve had holidays and gatherings, we have had an increase in case counts in the community, and we’re bracing for that,” Webb said.

He said Utah needs to refocus on rapidly increasing immunity through vaccination and decreasing transmission with all of the tools available. That means testing, masking, social distancing, hand-washing and avoiding large gatherings — even outside because the delta variant is highly transmissible.

“We really need to ramp up our availability of testing, and the turnaround times,” Webb said.

Seasonal allergies and smoke pollution are making some people cough and sneeze. But if you develop new respiratory symptoms, or think you’ve been exposed to the virus, get tested.

“It’s important to know whether or not you have COVID-19,” Webb said.

To prevent the continued emergence of new variants, Webb said, the community needs to rapidly decrease the number of infected individuals who play host to the mutating viruses. At the same time, Utah needs to rapidly increase the number of immune individuals through vaccination.

“Both of those are interdependent. Both of those are absolutely essential,” Webb said.

Webb said morale among caregivers is down because staffing is down. That’s what limits their ability to provide top-quality care with a Labor Day surge looming.

“We’re seeing fatigue, especially on the faces of nursing and other health care providers that are on the front lines,” Webb said.

To ramp up testing, the Utah Department of Health is hiring. They hope to double testing capacity this month, after a 10 to 15% increase in tests last week lead to long lines.

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Utah hospitals bracing for post-Labor Day surge in COVID cases