Summit Council Hears About Dire Covid Situation In Utah, Possible Responses To Surge
The Summit County Council Wednesday was visited by two medical administrators who reviewed Utah’s surge of Covid cases, and how the state is truly about to hit its capacity in high-level ICU beds.
They also explained how they are planning to cope with the surge.
The Council heard from Dr. Wing Province, Medical Director at the Park City Hospital.
Also in the conversation was Kevin McCulley, Director of Preparedness and Response for the state. He talked about the “staggeringly high case rates” they’ve seen in the past two months.
“If you remember, just a couple weeks ago, we were having 4000, 3800. The thing to keep in mind is that consistently across this response, it’s been consistent that 5 percent of people end up needing
hospitalization. So that means when we have a case day of 4000, approximately 10 to 14 days later, about 5 percent of those individuals, or 200 people, are gonna be hospitalized in some form or fashion.”
He said that the proportion of Covid patients taking up ICU beds has tripled since October 1st. And he wouldn’t be surprised, he said, if they saw as many as 30 or 40 fatalities a day.
Dr. Province said they’ve worked to get the message out about masks, social distancing and small gatherings. He said a letter in the Park Record was signed by 100 local physicians. The doctor said anecdotally, he’s heard that helped some people persuade relatives to forego large Thanksgiving gatherings.
Still, he said, they’ve had to struggle with some popular perceptions.
“From a public-health standpoint, we as physicians are trying to be leaders in the community and letteing people know that this is a real disease. And sadly, that is a lot of the issue, is that a lot of folks just don’t believe that this is a real disease, or, that it’s not a political issue. And we’re doing as much as we can as far as advocating this in our community.”
The next step is to manage hospital space and resources.
“We can do all we can in the community. But if they’re not gonna listen and they’re not gonna change behavior, we’ve gotta do what we can at a hospital-operations perspective.”
McCulley said they have 16 referral hospitals with high-level ICU bed space, most of them located on the Wasatch Front, with a total of 440 beds. As of Wednesday, he noted, that capacity was nearly 94 percent filled—that is, leaving less than 20 beds.
Among the strategies, they said that a state-wide Medical Command Response Team has been set up to shift patients between hospitals. There are four dedicated long-term care facilities—three along the Wasatch Front and one in St. George—that can take some pressure off jammed-up hospitals.
Dr. Province said they’re also trying to separate patients who need to stay in the hospital and those who can go home. They use a Remote Patient Monitoring System to keep track of the latter group, using a device placed on a patient’s finger.
There are also limits on staff. Dr. Province said IHC is paying for “travel nurses” to fill slots temporarily. Another program brings on senior nursing students, guided by mentors.
Ultimately, said McCulley, they have formulated a Crisis Standards of Care Plan, in the event there are more patients than available beds, and they have to make some difficult choices.
With just a couple of weeks before Christmas, Dr. Province suggested this message.
“You may have seen or heard the meme, or the line, that says, “A socially-distanced Thanksgiving means we can have a non-ICU Christmas.” So that’s what we’re trying to get the message out to everybody. It’s just a matter of making those personal sacrifices.”
Dr. Wing Province from Intermountain Health Care.