ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – Both Iron and Washington Counties are back in the high transmission level for COVID-19 and hospitalization numbers continue to rise, according to leaders from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department and St. George Regional Hospital.

Health leaders are calling the recent wave in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations a summer surge, as the supply of staff is low and the demand for care rises.

“I just finished a week on service and overwhelmed is a pretty good term, yeah I would say I’ve been overwhelmed,” says Dr. Bryce Ferguson, the ICU medical director at St. George Regional Hospital.

As of Tuesday, 41 people are in the hospital under the Southwest Utah Public Health District due to COVID-19.

“Requiring aggressive mechanical ventilation, high flow nasal cannula, and prolonged ICU stays,” says Dr. Ferguson.

Officials say the majority of these patients are elderly and unvaccinated.

“Most of those would most likely be in the St. George Regional Hospital. The disclaimer though is that its likely a section of those 41 are not residents of our five county district,” says David Heaton of the Southwest Public Health Department.

He says roughly 1/3 of patients in the last COVID-19 surge in the winter were from out-of-town.

“We’re the community hospital for everyone form Mesquite to Caliente, to Beaver, Cedar City, Kanab, Page, so we have patients from all over that region,” says Dr. Ferguson.

This is why health leaders say it’s important residents keep up with their vaccinations.

“It’s to avoid the anguish, that is the most challenging aspect for me right now, is having the anguish of having a loved one here in the ICU,” says Dr. Ferguson.