Utah hospitals feel more strain with rising COVID-19 infection rates

Oct 12, 2020, 7:00 PM
Utah hospitals feel more strain with rising COVID-19 infection rates...
(A new COVID-19 testing facility at the University of Utah. Credit: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News, Oct 12, 2020)
(A new COVID-19 testing facility at the University of Utah. Credit: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News, Oct 12, 2020)

SALT LAKE COUNTY – A rising rate of COVID-19 infection and a high number of new daily cases have hospital administrators very worried about being able to keep up with demand.  Some health industry insiders say they’re doing what they can to make sure people get the treatment they need, but there is only so much they can do.

On Monday, state health officials announced 988 new additional cases of COVID-19, with five more deaths.  The rolling seven-day positivity rate is 13.9%, although there have been multiple days where the rate of positive cases reached over 20%.  Officials also say there have only been two days in October, so far, where there were fewer than 1,000 new cases per day.

Over the weekend, Utah reached a record number of hospitalizations.  As of Monday, there were 249 people in hospitals across the state, and The Deseret News reports University of Utah Hospital is close to 100% capacity.

It isn’t just the high number of infections that have officials at the Utah Hospital Association worried.  President Greg Bell says they’re especially concerned about the high rates of infection in older people.

He says, “Hospitalization increases with age.”

The problem isn’t necessarily bed space.  Bell says hospitals can transfer infected patients to other facilities that aren’t so crowded.  Plus, there are beds currently available at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, but Bell says they’d rather not use them.

“Even though it’s outfitted, it’s not staffed.  As one of our doctors says, ‘People take care of patients.  Beds don’t,’” he says.

According to Bell, administrators are having a tough time ensuring their doctors, nurses and other workers are healthy since many of them are sickened with COVID-19, themselves.  He says health care companies can bring in workers from other states, if necessary, and many of them are looking into doing that.

“We’re looking at other measures to bring in temporary nurses, retired nurses and out of state nurses,” Bell says.  “If other places aren’t surging, then that’s possible.  Unfortunately, most states are surging, right now.”

According to the researchers at Statista, Utah has the 17th highest rate of infection across the country.  New York and New Jersey, which were once considered to have the highest rates in the country, are ranked 22nd and 23rd, respectively.

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Utah hospitals feel more strain with rising COVID-19 infection rates