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‘We are bursting at the seams’: Utah hospitals full with COVID patients

MURRAY, Utah – As we head into our second Thanksgiving in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah’s hospitals said they are about as full as they were at the peak last year.  

While the majority of Utahns are vaccinated, we do not have herd immunity and transmission of the coronavirus throughout most of the state remains high.  

Doctors with Intermountain Healthcare urged us to be cautious at gatherings. 

Right now, Utah is still one of the top 10 “hot spot” states for new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. An infectious diseases physician with Intermountain Healthcare said Utah is in the same place it was last year, except for the vaccine. 

“We are bursting at the seams,” Dr. Brandon Webb said in a media briefing. “We’ve never had more Covid patients in the hospital than we do now. The hospitals are flexing everywhere they can.” 

Webb said ICUs and hospitals remain at or over 100% capacity statewide with the vast majority of hospitalized patients being unvaccinated. 

One difference this year: other respiratory viruses are circulating. 

“We have high rates of RSV. The croup viruses are also at high prevalence in our community, and we’re starting to see some influenza now,” the doctor said. 

That creates more pressure on the healthcare systems while the state is still reporting double-digit deaths each day, and nearly 1,500 new cases. 

“That death rate correlates very closely with community transmission,” Webb said. 

Intermountain doctors urge us to enjoy the holiday with our families but observe good health practices. Open windows to improve ventilation, wear a mask, and avoid crowds. 

“We really need people to understand their risk, and their risk factors,” Webb said. 

People who are sick or high risk, he said, should sit out for this year’s gathering. 

“We’ll bring you some turkey at home,” he said. “It’s more important than having transmission within the family, especially to those who are at higher risk for severe disease.” 

Those with chronic medical conditions or a body mass over 30 are more susceptible to severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death. 

“That’s the reality. It’s that population that we really feel strongly about advocating for vaccination,” the physician said. 

Vaccinations have picked up over the last few weeks with the inclusion of more children, and the addition of boosters. 

“The more vaccination we get at the community level, the more likely it is that we will return quickly to lower levels of transmission like we had last spring.” 

Webb will be in the hospital tomorrow. He’s grateful for the community support throughout the pandemic and knows that many people have made sacrifices to keep the virus from spreading. 

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