Wave of COVID cases among western states putting strain on Utah hospitals

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Intermountain Healthcare officials say the most recent wave of cases per capita of COVID throughout the country are in the mountain west states, with Utah among the top 10 who are feeling the high transmission rate of the virus.

On Friday, the Utah Department of Health reported an additional 22 individuals who have died due to COVID-19. As the holidays approach, doctors say hospitals continue to experience an extreme number of both covid and non-COVID patients inside of the ICUs.

“It really puts a strain on the healthcare system’s ability to care for patients notwithstanding the condition they need care for,” says Dr. Brandon Webb Infectious Disease Physician with Intermountain Healthcare.

Webb says not only are hospital ICU beds at nearly full capacity, but doctors are also seeing an early spike in respiratory virus cases such as RSV, influenza, and croup. He says the pediatric respiratory numbers usually peak around mid-winter, but we’re already there. Webb explains the severity of Utah’s COVID surge by saying “we’re starting off in a place that doesn’t give us a lot of confidence, we’re going into the winter months without any headway.”

So, what’s the cause?

Doctors say looser guidelines regarding mask-wearing and distancing play a role in the spike in both COVID and non-COVID cases inside Intermountain hospitals. And with vaccinations now widely available, Webb says ICUs are still seeing a high number of younger patients who are unvaccinated being admitted.

“It’s that younger patient group who are unvaccinated and have tend to have lower comorbidities or medical conditions” shares Webb.

But there’s a potential light at the end of the tunnel. Dr. Webb says doctors are excited about the possibility of oral anti-virals such as Pfizer’s pill to treat COVID-19.

Webb says doctors expect that if the oral solutions receive emergency authorization, they will play a role in reducing hospitalizations.

At this time, doctors expect the FDA to consider both agents sometime before Christmas.

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