Omicron surge still climbing in Utah hospitals

Jan 24, 2022, 6:35 PM | Updated: 8:55 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah may be done with mask mandates, but the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s hospitals is not done. Caregivers continue to face a rising record number of patients.

The head of the Utah Hospital Association said the impact of the omicron surge continues to challenge the collective hospital system.

Utah’s hospitals have been full for several months, with COVID-19 and non-COVID patients. But, over the last four weeks, the hospitals have taken on 50% more patients during the omicron surge.

Greg Bell, president and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association, said that’s neither manageable nor sustainable.

“I know it’s hard. We’re climbing the walls, right? We’re done with this stuff, but it’s not done with us,” Bell said in a teleconferencing interview.

Right now, Utah hospitals are treating around 100 more patients than during the previous spike a year ago.

Bell said last summer, hospital occupancy dropped to around 100 patients. Today, well over 700 patients (738) are hospitalized, and 10 or more people are dying each day.

“This stuff is explosively contagious,” he said. “It’s just crazy contagious. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it.”

Omicron may not be as severe as the delta variant, but it generates so many more cases that more people end up in the hospital.

“This comes on top of: A. A labor shortage, b. Exhaustion among our clinicians who have been doing this for two years. They are flat exhausted,” he said.

Many have quit the medical profession altogether. Others have COVID-19 themselves, or are caring for sick family members.

“Our people are infected,” Bell said. “They have kids in junior high who are bringing it home to them. They have spouses who are out in the workforce. They’re not getting infected at work, but they are getting infected at home.”

Regardless of mandates, Bell said community members need to do everything they can to avoid spreading the virus.

“We’ve got to see this through. It’s not just going to evaporate,” he said. “We’ve got to be intelligent about it.”

Bell said vaccination is the key to reducing new case numbers and hospitalizations. But, he said, we should also avoid gatherings, and mask up in public until this surge is past.

“It would be nice if we could forget the politics of it all and just protect ourselves, and protect our families, and protect each other,” he said.

He says we cannot collectively let our guard down.

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Omicron surge still climbing in Utah hospitals