Healthcare officials urging Utahns to get vaccinated

Jan 6, 2022, 6:03 PM | Updated: 9:19 pm
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File photo: Healthcare officials are urging Utahns to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases increase.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah set a new single-day COVID-19 case record on Thursday and healthcare officials warned Utahns that hospitals are strained and urged them to get vaccinated. Officials from the Utah Department of Health and leaders from local hospitals spoke in a joint press conference on Jan. 6. 

Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Health, Dr. Michelle Hofmann, said in addition to breaking yesterday’s single-day COVID-19 case record, there are also more people hospitalized and in the ICU than yesterday. 

Tracey Nixon, chief nursing officer for University of Utah Health, said the University of Utah Hospital has already been dramatically understaffed because many healthcare workers have left the profession. However, due to the spread of the Omicron variant, the problem has intensified because more employees can’t work due to being exposed to COVID-19 or testing positive. 

“I am unable to care for the patients that we need to. We have closed beds in our hospital, one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made. We are facing shifts where we are so understaffed, that our staff are afraid to come to work,” Nixon said.

Nixon said earlier this week she had three nurses leave because “they can’t do this again.” She said many of her employees are discouraged because they feel the current situation is worse than when the pandemic started almost two years ago. Nixon said the New Year is usually a time of hope but that hope is hard to maintain with case counts rising.

Dr. Arlen Jarrett, Chief Medical Officer for Steward Healthcare, said while everyone is tired of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

“There’s no one that is more acutely affected by this fatigue than our frontline workers in the hospital,” he said. “We’re so, so sorry that you have to be the witness to the suffering and sad departing of so many souls under your care.”

Jarrett recommended four things that people can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ease the strain on hospitals: get vaccinated, wear a mask, avoid large crowds, and get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms. 

“It’ll sound like a broken record because you’ve heard these so many times before,” he said.

The Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Health, Dr. Michelle Hofmann, said Utah is running low on supplies that help prevent those with COVID-19 from getting critically ill, including monoclonal antibody treatments and oral antibody pills.

“The one thing that is not in short supply, or experiencing significant wait times to take advantage of, also happens to be the one thing that is most effective at preventing cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. And of course, as you all know, that one thing is vaccines,” she said.

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Healthcare officials urging Utahns to get vaccinated