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Frontline Caregivers Feeling “Frustrated and Overwhelmed” as COVID-19 Hospitalizations Surge


As COVID-19 continues its surge in Utah this week with over 82% of statewide ICU beds in use, hospital workers are expressing frustration with low vaccination rates among the people getting sick.


The Utah Department of Health announced 728 new statewide COVID-19 infections Tuesday, bringing the state’s rolling seven-day average of new cases to 877 per day, its highest rate since February 15th.


National data shows the current surge in cases can be linked to the highly-contagious Delta variant of the virus combined with low vaccination rates. According to the health department, 65% of eligible Utahns have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Anyone 12 and older can get a shot. 


Summit county is now averaging just over six new cases a day. The health department reports 88% of eligible people in the county have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 


Wasatch County reported seven new cases on Tuesday and is now averaging just over 11 cases per day.


Summit County Deputy Health Director Phil Bondurant said at this week’s County Board of Health meeting that the county’s current vaccine numbers and case rates do not warrant a new mask mandate.


In an Intermountain Healthcare press conference Tuesday, ICU Critical Care Technician Kaydi Marshall said with statewide hospitalizations up by over 100 people since one month ago, she and her ICU colleagues are discouraged by the current trends. 


“We went through our big surge last year and cases kind of started to go down,” she said. “It kind of felt like we were going to start getting a break from it and now, we’re just seeing more and more cases again. I think we’re all feeling a little frustrated, especially where there is a vaccine and many of the patients we’re seeing are unvaccinated or aren’t wearing masks. When there’s ways that people in our community can prevent that, I think we’re all just feeling a little bit frustrated and overwhelmed and just worried about what the future could bring.”


According to state health officials, hospitalizations and deaths have begun to shift towards people in younger age groups who are unvaccinated.


Governor Spencer Cox said on Tuesday that of the 15 statewide deaths reported over the weekend, seven were under the age of 65 and three were between the ages of 25 and 44. Five more deaths were reported on Tuesday and two of those were people in the 45-64 age bracket.


“65 and under is far too young to die from something that is almost completely preventable,” Cox said. “I’m a person who believes in responsibility, I’m a person who believes in consequences, and if you choose not to get the vaccine, then those are the consequences that may happen and we have to be willing to live with those consequences. Again, I just encourage everyone to please get the vaccine.” 


Cox also expressed frustration with vaccine misinformation and added that if people were listening to him and health experts, they would already have their shot.  


Intermountain Healthcare Medical Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Todd Vento said on Tuesday that vaccines and masking -- when done separately -- will not be enough to defeat the virus. He said they must be used together. 


“Anyone who talks about vaccines are better than masks or masks are better than the vaccine, they’re missing the point,” said Vento. “We have a toolbox of a bunch of tools, let’s use every single tool in that toolbox. I really think it’s critical that people not forget about the measures that work. We don’t want to wish our way out of this or hope our way to the finish line. We want to do the things, do the work that gets us to the finish line and then we can actually celebrate, be proud, think of what we did together. We have a common enemy, that’s the only enemy we need to fight -- the virus -- and we know how to do that with every tool in our toolbox.”


Healthcare professionals continue to urge unvaccinated people to speak with their doctors about any concerns they might have about the vaccine.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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