SALT LAKE CITY — Though Utah is experiencing a monthlong surge in new daily COVID-19 cases, its hospitals haven’t yet seen a large rise in demand for care, health officials said Monday.
In early June, the daily average new case number rose from 200 to 400. That happened about two weeks after restrictions were lifted when Utah moved into its “yellow,” or low-risk phase in the pandemic. Since then, the Beehive State for the past two weeks has confirmed an average of more than 500 new cases each day.
But at the same time, the state’s hospitalization rate is falling. While that rate once stood at about 8%, it is now about 6.3%, according to Utah Department of Health data. Meanwhile, the state’s death rate of confirmed cases has fallen to 0.75%, down from 1.07% in early May.
And a makeshift hospital set up by the state in April at the Mountain America Expo Center through a contract with Salt Lake County has been “partially demobilized,” as the contract expired in mid-May, said Joe Dougherty, spokesman with the Utah Division of Emergency Management. But the equipment remains at the center should the need arise, and can be set up within 12 hours, Dougherty said.
“Though case counts and hospital capacity have (grown) in the past couple of weeks, our hospital systems are still under their capacity, which means they are still able to manage patient care,” he said.
Utah’s intensive care units are now 61.2% occupied, while its non-intensive care units are 43.7% occupied. The total current COVID-19 hospitalizations now stand at 192. Of the state’s nearly 1,300 ventilators, 195 are in use.
Dr. Angela Dunn, epidemiologist with the state health department, expressed concern on Twitter last week that the 4th of July, like Memorial Day, could lead to yet another increase in cases.
But it will take 10 to 14 days to see a potential impact from the holiday weekend, said Charla Haley, department spokeswoman. For now, public health officials are watching the numbers closely.
The current concern is whether residents are taking precautions against the virus seriously since Utah moved into its low-risk phase of the pandemic, Haley said. Officials are concerned people believe it means no risk and that precautions are no longer important, she said.
At MountainStar Healthcare, one of the largest hospital systems operating in the state, “we’re running at about normal capacity for summer,” said Jen Wagenaar, MountainStar chief nursing executive. The system has consistently seen COVID-19 patients average in the low double-digits even during the surge in cases, she said.
“Certainly, we’ve seen a growth in the number of cases,” Wagenaar said. “That said, we’re still well-equipped (to handle them) across the state and at MountainStar.”
Hospital officials have seen that community factors, including average age and lifestyle, play into hospitalization rates and the level and duration of care patients will need, Wagenaar said. Utah, with a healthier and younger population on average, has seen lower hospitalization rates than other states.
But diligence is still needed by all residents to maintain hospital capacity, Wagenaar said.
A surge in hospital demand could disproportionately impact rural areas, health officials have warned.
The U.S. Covid Atlas — a national breakdown created by the University of Chicago — shows cumulative hospital capacity for each county. While metropolitan hospitals appear to have fared well, the data reveals the potential burden rural hospitals face during the pandemic in Utah.
In San Juan County, there are 36 licensed hospital beds, meaning if everyone with the disease required hospitalization at the same time, there would be just one bed for every 11.5 of the county’s 414 confirmed cases. Wasatch County, meanwhile, has 19 licensed hospital beds. The county has confirmed 422 cases, meaning there is one bed for every 22.2 cases.
By comparison, Salt Lake County has 3,369 licensed hospital beds. There has been one bed for every 3.7 cases of the county’s 12,758 cases.
Utah again confirmed a high number of new COVID-19 cases as well as six more deaths on Monday.
The 517 positive tests out of 4,534 reported Monday bring the state’s total since the pandemic began to 25,469 of 375,842, a positive rate of 6.8%, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Twenty-two more people required hospitalization for the disease on Monday.
For the past two weeks, Utah has averaged more than new 500 cases each day. This past week brought an average of 544 positives out of just under 6,000 tests, while the previous week’s daily average was 537 positives out of 5,000 tests, state health officials noted.
Six more deaths with the novel coronavirus were also reported Monday:
- A Davis County woman, between ages 45-64, not hospitalized.
- A Wasatch County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.
- A Salt Lake County man, 65-84,…
Source Website Despite COVID-19 case surge, Utah’s hospitalization, death rates fall