SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – With a continued rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, an Intermountain Healthcare doctor says it’s negatively impacting the state’s healthcare system.

“This is getting to a point where we’re going to be opening up overflow ICUs,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Disease Physician.

258 Utahns are currently hospitalized due COVID-19, according to the Utah Department of Health.

“In our Intermountain Healthcare network, we now have had more cases today for COVID-19 than we ever had,” Stenehjem said. “We’re over – about 40 percent higher than what we were back in July.”

With just over 4,500 people being hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic, Stenehjem said it’s negatively impacting the healthcare system.

“We’re load-leveling like never before. We’re transferring patients,” Stenehjem said. “All our large facilities have very considerable case counts of COVID-19.”

This overload is also causing concern for medical professionals and their well-being.

“We may have beds to take care of these patients, but our staff is getting incredibly tired and short and our ICU nurses are working around the clock, so this is getting to a very critical point for us in this current surge,” Stenejhem said.

Public health officials continue to say community spread is a growing factor in the increased case counts. And Stenejhem also notes that herd immunity is not the answer to limiting the spread.

“Look at what’s happening right now. You know, we’re not anywhere close to herd immunity, and our hospitals are getting full – to the point we’re opening up units,” Stenehjem said. “And this is with pretty significant masking guidelines and those types of things.”

Stenehjem believes if people go back to living pre-pandemic lives, there could be consequences.

“If we opened things up and let communities go and protect our vulnerable population (as some people say), we would see devastating consequences in the hospital and in our healthcare networks and the health to the population,” he said.

With the state’s new COVID-19 guidelines, Stenehjem said he hopes people will follow them in an effort to limit the virus’ spread.

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