Utah House Speaker: More vaccinated will ease hospital strain

Sep 8, 2021, 5:00 AM | Updated: 5:53 pm
vaccine mandate...
FILE: Epidemiology nurse Amy Carter tells the Weber-Morgan Board of Health that COVID cases among school-age children are rising, while opponents of mask mandates wait for their turn to speak. (Photo: Weber-Morgan Health Department)
(Photo: Weber-Morgan Health Department)

SALT LAKE CITY — The man who leads the Utah House of Representatives doubts we’d be talking about mask mandates or returning power to health departments, as some Democrats would like to see, if more people would get vaccinated for COVID-19. 

Related: Utah House Democrats “frustrated” over COVID-19 surge

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic Wednesday that a large majority of those hospitalized in Utah with COVID-19 are not vaccinated. 

Wilson: More Utah residents need to get vaccinated

“You know, the whole reason that we’re having the conversation about masks or, or any of this, at this point, really, is just to make sure that we don’t tip over our healthcare system,” Wilson said. “And we’ve got close to 500 people right now in Utah hospitals — 90% of those are not vaccinated, and I understand people can make their own choice, and that’s, that’s fine. But, boy, it’s, it’s just kind of worrisome that we have this opportunity out there for people to avoid being in the hospital.” 

Asked about increasing capacity for hospitals, Wilson said lawmakers will work on increased funding. But he said hiring more health care workers could prove tricky in the current environment.

“They’re kind of at the end of their ropes in many ways, they’re leaving healthcare in record numbers, because it’s been so difficult and hard,” he said. “And you add to that, and you can hear this in their voices, the frustration that they have that 90% of the people that they’re treating in the hospitals and in the ICUs are not vaccinated. They’re just — they’re just worn out.” 

In the meantime, he suggested Utahns take a dual approach to ease the burden on Utah hospitals: become vaccinated, and make good choices. 

“I’ll give you an example. We had a family party scheduled for last weekend with a couple of individuals that are vaccinated but they’re over 70. And almost all the breakthrough cases that we see are in that population, that are over 70,” he said.

They’ll try again later instead, he said. 

Don’t expect a return of statewide mask mandates

In response to calls for mask mandates, Wilson pointed out some communities have instituted their own versions as outlined by state law.

“And so that’s the process that’s sort of playing out right now,” he said. “You see mask requirements, for example, in schools in Grand County, and that was done in collaboration with elected officials and the health department there. Same thing in Summit County. And it’s playing out in other health departments across the state, they’re trying to find the right solutions for them.” 

He did not expect that process to change. In his view, decisions about mask mandates should come from local health departments and elected officials rather than the state.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Obtain a flu shot.
  • Seek out the COVID-19 vaccine.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

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Utah House Speaker: More vaccinated will ease hospital strain