“Dying unnecessarily”: Utah ICUs approach capacity as Covid-19 cases continue to surge

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FILE – In this Monday, April 20, 2020 file photo, emergency room doctors and nurses wear personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y. On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study which found hospital emergency room visits from chest pain and heart attacks fell early this spring, further confirming experts’ fears that U.S. coronavirus outbreaks scared away many heart patients from going to ERs who should have gone. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

MURRAY (ABC4 News) – Utah set another record for daily Covid-19 cases Thursday with 1501 new infections announced by the Department of Health. Perhaps more concerning than the spike in cases in the rising number of Utahns hospitalized with the virus.

An infectious disease specialist at Intermountain Healthcare told ABC4 News that doctors and nurses are overworked and in danger of becoming overwhelmed as intensive care units approach capacity.
“This is a surge, “Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said. “This is a surge of COVID patients that we’re having to manage and deal with.”

Dr. Stenehjem says ICU physicians and nurses are exhausted both physically and mentally.

“These caregivers have been working with Covid-19 patients for months now, really since April/May,” he said. “People are tired and they’re a little disheartened when they see record case counts today. This isn’t ending anytime soon and it’s just really, really taxing for all of us involved in it.”

He says the 15-25-year-olds who fueled the spike last month have now spread the virus to their parents and grandparents, people who are much more likely to wind up in the hospital. The fear is not just running out of beds but also trained specialists to care for the patients in them.

“If I were in the ICU, I would want a pulmonary intensive care doc taking care of me. I want a pulmonary intensive care pharmacist and nurse and respiratory therapist,” he said. “As this grows, that’s not going to be the case. They’re going to be overseeing care provided by other people. We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but that’s part of our plan of expanding care.”

Dr. Stenehjem says Utahns need to change the trajectory of this outbreak by wearing masks in public and socially-distancing whenever possible because it appears we’re in this for the long haul.

“This rise is not going anywhere. Our hospitals are full and we don’t see things changing,” he said. “We don’t see things changing at the government level or the local level. We need to do something and do something different if we want a different result…People are dying unnecessarily and we need to change that.”

Dr. Stenehjem urges everyone to get their flu shot because seasonal influenza sends numerous people to the hospital every year and they need those beds for COVID patients.

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