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Utah hospitals close to crisis standards of care

MURRAY, Utah — The Utah Department of Health on Friday said 592 Utahns are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, which is the third highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

It’s that kind of overwhelming hospital burden that led to the governor invoking crisis standards of care throughout Idaho on Thursday.

Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare, said Friday that Utah is not in that danger yet, but close.

“We’re above our capacity for, in particular, ICU care throughout the (Intermountain) systems. This actually goes for non-Intermountain systems, too,” he said.

Last year, at this brink, he said the public helped turn back the surge. 

Vento urged everyone to help that way again.

To manage the large volume of patients, hospital caregivers are strategically having to move patients to different hospitals, or different areas, to avoid the triaging their counterparts have been forced to do in Idaho.

“Crisis standards of care mean you don’t have the resources or the capabilities to provide the level of care that you would normally provide,” Vento saidSo, you now shift your focus on: I’m going to try to do the greatest good for the greatest number.”

They focus on patients most likely to survive and treat them first. 

For example, the doctor said, a 90-year-old patient with cancer and COVID-19 would not be treated as soon as a 60-year-old patient with the virus.

“You try to do the greatest good for the greatest number by prioritizing based on likelihood of survival,” he said.

Last November, the state released its crisis standards of care.

The governor never had to invoke them.

“It was heartbreaking to see what all of those healthcare providers were going through during the surge last year. Unfortunately, we are getting close to that again,” said Joe Dougherty, a spokesperson with the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The chief medical officers at Utah’s hospitals, the Utah Department of Health, and the Utah Hospital Association would have to ask Gov. Spencer Cox to invoke the crisis standards of care.

When Utah was at the brink before, the vaccine arrived, people wore masks and social distanced to reduce hospitalizations.

Dougherty pointed out there are differences during this surge.

“We have a lot of people who are vaccinated, but hardly anyone is wearing masks and keeping their distance, which means we are just going to see a lot of spread of the disease,” he said.

Vento said what’s going on in the hospitals directly relates to what’s going on in the community.

“If your community is not vaccinated, if your community doesn’t distance, if your community doesn’t wear masks, there are going to be more cases. It’s going to overload the hospital,” he saidSome folks don’t like hearing that, but that’s just the facts.”

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