CORONAVIRUS

U Hospital staff ‘moving mountains’ to beat back omicron surge 

Jan 18, 2022, 5:14 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 6:26 pm

Salt Lake City – Unlike other parts of the country, the surge in omicron cases has not peaked yet in Utah. According to a top doctor at University of Utah Hospital, the facility was full, and staffing was thin but caregivers remained determined in their mission. 

Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at record levels, as Utah caregivers deal with the steepest surge in the pandemic, so far. The associate chief medical officer at U of U Health said it’s taking a toll on caregivers but they give what they have each day. 

“They’re essentially moving mountains to do what it is that we do really well,” said Dr. Kencee Graves. 

The associate chief medical officer is part of a team responsible for putting the pieces in place to care for all patients, with or without COVID-19. Since the pandemic began she said it feels as though it’s been all COVID-19. 

“It’s been really hard the last two years for anybody in the world of health care,” Graves said. “So, I just keep showing up, supporting our teams, and hoping I can make things better.” 

That’s challenging because of staffing shortages due to people quitting the profession, and COVID-19 among caregivers. 

“A year ago, we were doing what we are doing right now with more people,” she said. “The majority of our hospital beds are full.” 

That adds to the fatigue and stress for those who remain to care for the patients. 

“They’re outstanding team members,” Graves said. “We’re really in this together, and I think honestly a lot of people really just see that this pandemic is going to evolve. It’s not going to cripple us forever.” 

Some beds remained closed because they need more doctors and nurses so they prioritize care. 

“And make sure we can get the most urgent patients in as fast as possible, and then come up with a plan for the others,” the physician said. 

Omicron may be milder for most patients but that’s not necessarily true for everyone. 

“We have had a number of patients that have been seriously ill as a result of COVID-19, and many of those are people who did not get vaccinated.” 

Physicians again are calling on the community to support their efforts. 

“Do everything in your power to stay healthy,” Graves said. 

That includes getting vaccinated. Even if you get a breakthrough case, the doctor said, the vaccine gives you the best chance of staying out of the hospital and living. 

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Coronavirus Resources 

Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing social@ksl.com. 

Click here to sign up for a vaccine and here to see how Utah’s vaccine rollout is progressing. 

The latest COVID-19 stories from KSL can be found here. 

How do I prevent it? 

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick 
  • Avoid touching your face 
  • Stay home when you are sick 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty. 
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. 

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U Hospital staff ‘moving mountains’ to beat back omicron surge