SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, a traditionally popular occasion for outdoor recreation in Utah, healthcare workers are urging residents to both be careful while having fun in the sun and to protect themselves from what they feel is an unnecessary trip to the hospital by getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Speaking at the state’s final regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Kencee Graves from the University of Utah says the combination of rising case counts within the state, combined with the recreational nature of July 4th is troubling for an already strained healthcare system.
According to Graves, the Fourth of July weekend has the highest volume of trauma incidents as Utahns go out and enjoy time on the water, on recreational vehicles, and in the great outdoors. Due to rising hospitalizations and case counts in the state, largely due to mutations in the virus and a population of unvaccinated folks who are receiving the brunt of the increased transmissions, hospitals are currently strained.
Wednesday’s case counts were the highest in the state since March 4, said the Governor. Additionally, an increase to 257 hospitalizations brought the state to its highest mark since February 19.
“We may get to 1,200 cases per day, we were there before, we had 3,500 cases per day in the fall, the difference then to now is now our hospitals are full of people who delayed care for 18 months when things were scary and we didn’t have a vaccine,” she explains.
To Graves, having hospital ICU centers full of unvaccinated people is unnecessary when the vaccine “safe and effective.” It’s especially bothersome as she anticipates hospitals to be impacted by a surge of trauma incidents over the weekend.
“No one is safe from COVID unless you’re vaccinated and we need you all to protect each other,” she implores.
Graves remarks the latest mutation in the coronavirus, the Delta variant, is more present in Utah than it is in Los Angeles. Earlier in the week, L.A. County’s health department recommended residents in the area once again wear masks when meeting in indoor public places. ABC4. reached out to the Utah Department of Health to inquire if such a recommendation would be made locally, and was told that was unlikely.
“Our recommendations are in line with CDC. If you’re vaccinated, then there’s no need for you to be wearing a mask. If you’re not vaccinated, you should consider wearing masks at times where you might be exposed to large crowds and potentially infected people,” Utah Department of Health communications director Tom Hudachko told ABC4 on Tuesday.
As she approached the podium at the press briefing, Graves was donning a mask, and after removing it to speak, explained that although she was vaccinated, she has continued to wear facial protection to set an example for her young children and to make others around her feel safe.
“I want to be very, very clear about what everyone on our staff has told us and that is, this is not over. The vaccine is important, it is what we need to end this but the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.”