Hospital admissions multiply, caregivers fall sick amid omicron surge

Jan 4, 2022, 8:42 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 7:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — “Since Christmas Eve, we’ve seen about a 300% increase in admissions to our hospital for COVID-19,” Dr. Russell Vinik, the chief medical operations officer at University of Utah Hospital said.

Since then, he said, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has tripled, and the caregivers are getting sick too.

Doctors with University of Utah Health say the omicron surge is sweeping the country, and cases are climbing sharply in Utah.

“We’ve seen this variant is incredibly infectious, so much more infectious, at least two to three times more transmissible than what we’ve seen with the delta variant,” Vinik said.

Utah’s positive rate is also rising sharply: a much sharper rise in infection than they have seen with previous variants.

“It’s just a really dramatic increase in how quickly these cases have come up with the omicron variant,” Erin Clouse, strategic engagement manager at University of Utah Health said.

So, they expect hospitalizations to keep rising, as staffing at the hospital has been dramatically depleted by the virus.

“We have lost hundreds of staff in the last few days due to illness,” Vinik said.

So, University Of Utah Hospital is taking 53 beds out of service, and postponing elective, scheduled surgeries for the next couple of weeks.

“Right now, in Utah we’re one of those places that is in the beginning of a surge,” Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health said.

He warned that the coronavirus is transmitted through the fine particles that we breathe out, that remain suspended in the air.

“Just to give you an example,” he said. “If somebody had coughed in an elevator before you got in it, all it would take is for you to take your mask down for a second to get infected.”

So, any indoor area with unmasked people presents a risk, the doctor said.

With the infection rate in Utah right now:

“If you go into a space where there’s more than a dozen people, it’s almost certain that there’s going to be some COVID floating around in the air,” Swaminathan said.

They’re urging everyone to get vaccinated and boosted if they’re eligible, and wear masks indoors. The doctors are hopeful omicron will peak quickly as it has elsewhere in the world. But, until then, they advise people to be extremely cautious.

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Hospital admissions multiply, caregivers fall sick amid omicron surge