Utah’s COVID-19 hospitalizations as high as during pandemic’s peak — and cases may be on the way up

COVID-19 tests are processed at the Mount Olympus Senior Center parking lot in Millcreek on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.

COVID-19 tests are processed at the Mount Olympus Senior Center parking lot in Millcreek on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Officials hope to see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases in Utah soon. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

‘We’re not out of the woods yet,’ U. doctor warns

Even though COVID-19 cases are dropping nationwide, Utah now has just as many patients hospitalized with the virus as during the peak of the pandemic — and the state’s case count may be headed back up, University of Utah Health’s chief medical operations officer said Wednesday.

“We’re hopeful to see a downward trend in Utah. It’s certainly not going up at the rate that we’ve seen in the past but we are not out of the woods yet,” Dr. Russell Vinik told reporters during a virtual news conference from the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Utah did see a brief dip in case counts that suggested the latest surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant may have peaked, but the numbers climbed slightly last week before hitting a plateau of a seven-day average of about 1,400 cases a day.

On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 1,845 new cases and 17 deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 3,042 since the pandemic began.

COVID-19 cases tracked by the U. through the health system’s testing centers show “a gradual upward trend in new cases” over the past three weeks, he said, noting that while the area involved is limited, throughout the pandemic the state’s numbers typically follow within a week or two.

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That’s making the health system “very cautious, because cases aren’t going down,” Vinik said, adding, “our cases and our hospitalizations are as high as they’ve ever been. So now is not the time to let your guard down. COVID is not over.”

The more than 30% decline in coronavirus cases around the country over the past several weeks is “significant,” the doctor said, but largely the result of southeastern states like Texas, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana experiencing first a rapid rise in cases followed by a steep fall.

For Utah and surrounding states, “the story isn’t as promising,” he said. In Arizona, where schools opened about a month earlier than in Utah, Vinik said “they seem to have reached a peak and a plateau, but they have not seen a downward trend in cases.”

The number of patients hospitalized in Utah with COVID-19 continues to be around 600, with more than a third in intensive care units. According to the Utah health department, virus patients are filling 60% of hospital beds and 91% of those in ICUs.

“These numbers are as high as the peaks we saw last December and January,” Vinik said. The big difference is that health care systems are under additional strain because of staffing issues. Health care workers are leaving the profession due to burnout or accepting signing bonuses and higher wages somewhere else, he said.

“Care is suffering throughout the state,” Vinik said, as patients in rural …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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