Intermountain ICUs report 100% capacity, stretched resources

Aug 27, 2021, 9:33 AM | Updated: 10:41 am
ICU Utah capacity children COVID...
Healthcare workers care for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. (Intermountain Healthcare)
(Intermountain Healthcare)

SALT LAKE CITY — Intermountain Healthcare announced on Friday that their ICUs have reached 100% capacity and their medical resources are being stretched.

“As of this morning, patient volumes (which includes both COVID and non-COVID patients) in Intermountain Healthcare’s ICUs is at an alarming 100% capacity, meaning that staff are continuing to have to take extraordinary measures to provide ongoing critical care/intensive care to ALL ICU patients, including non-COVID patients, such as heart attack, stroke, and trauma patients,” Intermountain said.

They said rising cases of primarily young unvaccinated people who have contracted the COVID-19 delta variant are one of the main stressors in their system right now. 

On Thursday, the Utah Department of Health reported that 463 Utahns were currently hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 185 of them were in ICUs across the state. The state of Utah has 531 ICU beds in total, and 453 of them are in “referral centers” which are more adequately prepared and staffed to handle COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 patients account for nearly 41% of the beds filled in Utah’s referral center ICUs, and the state is reporting that those hospital ICUs are at 90% capacity. 

“We’re seeing a couple of trends, the first is that our colleagues at Primary Children’s are seeing far more admissions for COVID during this phase, the Delta phase than we previously saw during other phases of the pandemic. That’s concerning,” Dr. Brandon Webb, an Infectious Diseases Physician at Intermountain said.

“We’re also noticing that there is a trend in the admissions for COVID patients on the adult side as well, there has been a decrease in the average age, and the patients who tend to be admitted, although they’re younger do have some health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and other conditions like that. We are seeing some cases that are surprising, people who appear otherwise healthy and get severe COVID.

“That’s not the most common scenario, it is happening and when it is it’s another reminder that Delta is different, Delta is simply a different disease in some ways than the previous variants,” he continued.

Webb said that throughout Intermountain’s facilities they are able to load level and transfer patients between their hospitals to find them the best care. But despite this measure, they are still overloaded. 

He added that now they are having to make decisions about whether or not to cancel certain procedures because they can’t guarantee that there will be an ICU bed if a patient needed one after a surgery. 

Delta and kids

“We don’t have answers fully as to that question (of why more children are being affected). As best we understand, it appears because the Delta variant causes such high viral numbers, and we know that the more virus you’re exposed to the higher the likelihood the virus is to overwhelm the first lines of defense in the immune system and likely causes or could cause more severe disease,” Webb said.

“We think that might be one of the reasons why we’re seeing more severe disease in younger patients with Delta because they’re being exposed to higher amounts of virus when they come in contact with people with the Delta variant.

“That highlights one of the important points here that the mitigation measures including masking and distancing and avoiding gatherings. They decrease the number of viral particles to which one is exposed if they have an exposure. And we hope that by taking those precautions individuals can actually prevent some of those more severe cases especially in those younger populations.”

Breakthrough cases

The rising number of breakthrough cases Intermountain officials have seen was expected. 

“The number of breakthrough infections correlates very very closely with the number of fully vaccinated individuals,” he said, adding that as more people get vaccinated, the more chances there are that breakthrough cases will happen. 

“The vaccines are still very effective, but not perfect. The more individuals in the community who are vaccinated, and with this high community transmission, we are going to see breakthrough infections,” Webb said.

He added that the protections of the vaccine are still very good. Patients who are fully vaccinated and still get infected have fewer and less severe symptoms, he said, and are much less likely to end up in the hospital or die from an infection. 


Doctors at Intermountain will be holding a news conference at 9:30 on Friday to discuss their ICUs hitting 100% capacity. You can watch that live below.



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Intermountain ICUs report 100% capacity, stretched resources