Utah doctor says statewide mask mandate could help alleviate strain on hospitals

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – For the past seven days, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has averaged slightly above 211 per day. It’s a statistic one Utah doctor said is “concerning.”

“When we look at especially ICU utilization, we have very few beds left in the state,” said Dr. Vinik, Chief Medical Operations Officer, University of Utah Health. “Even at the University of Utah, we had to open a surge ICU unit. That means that we’re asking staff who normally don’t work a certain number of shifts a week to pick up extra shifts, and long term that’s not good. Nobody wants to be hospitalized and have a doctor or a nurse who is physically and mentally exhausted caring for them. So, it is a significant concern.”

When the surge unit first opened about six weeks ago, the hospital only had non-ICU patients. The hospital opened up the ICU side about two weeks ago.

To alleviate strain on Utah’s hospitals, Dr. Vinik believes a statewide mask mandate is a step in the right direction.

“I believe it would help. We’ve certainly seen that Salt Lake County has improved. We can’t say for certain that it was due to the mandate, but the timing is consistent with the mandate.”

If a COVID-19 surge happens in Utah, doctors might have to choose who survives. The decision are part of the Patient Prioritization Tool within the Crisis Standard of Care Guidelines.

In March of this year, Greg Bell, President and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association, spoke with ABC4 News about the potential situation. Bell said he hopes it will not get to that point.

“If we do need to start making triage decisions, it would be under the order of the governor or some health authority.”

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