UTAH (ABC4) – This month has seen a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases across Utah. Health officials say around 95 percent of those cases have been the Omicron variant. While Omicron variant of COVID-19 is often considered mild in comparison to the Delta variant, health officials are preparing to see a rise in hospitalizations and deaths because of the immense increase in new cases.   

“What we really need is to reduce the size of this surge, so that we can take care of everyone,” Dr. Andrew Pavia stated.

Dr. Pavia is the Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health and Director of Hospital Epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. During a recent meeting with reporters, he explained that the surge in COVID-19 cases is beginning to affect Primary Children’s Hospital.  

“The number of kids getting infected is so high that even with a small percentage getting more severely ill, we’re seeing very large numbers of children who end up being severely ill,” he said. “So, don’t just let your kids get infected because it’s a ‘mild’ disease or you’ve heard on Facebook that this is like a cold.”  

Dr. Pavia explained that hospitalizations aren’t rising as quickly as new cases which are rising about four-fold. However, health officials across the state are bracing for the coming weeks.   

“It’s too soon to say what’s happening with deaths,” Bear River Health Department spokesperson Estee Hunt told ABC4. “There’s definitely a lag time from cases rising to deaths occurring. Inevitably, we’re going to see numbers increase, unfortunately, in that direction just simply because of the sheer number that are testing positive for COVID right now.”  

Dr. Pavia explained that the healthcare system across Utah currently doesn’t have the ability to care for a large influx in COVID patients. He added: “We have these other very effective treatments. We just don’t have enough of them to use right now, but the way we deal with COVID in February and March looks like it’s going to be a lot better than what we have in our hands right now.” Through a small smile he continued: “So, stay healthy until then.”  

Dr. Pavia emphasized multiple times during his time speaking with reporters that the goal of all Utahns right now should be to alleviate the healthcare system as Omicron continues to surge. “The best thing you can do is not get infected right now, wear your mask, get your booster if you haven’t gotten it,” he stated. Dr. Pavia also encouraged those who haven’t started their vaccine series to do so. He explained that while it won’t do much to protect those individuals right now, it will begin to provide protection in February and March.   

Dr. Pavia said there is some good news. He explained that patterns of Omicron spread in other states make officials believe the Omicron spike here in Utah may be sometime in February. He said with all Utahns getting on board to slow the spread, officials do believe it’s possible to get Utah from pandemic level spread to endemic level spread.