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Physician Has Dire Warning On COVID Spread

Intermountain Healthcare

In a news conference Friday, Intermountain Healthcare announced that Utah's ICUs are over capacity due to the COVID-19 Delta strain. 90% of those patients are unvaccinated.

Some healthcare workers are making a public plea healthcare workers are making to get the vaccine, mask up, wash hands and avoid large crowds.

Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said ICUs throughout the state are at 102%. He said providers are worried that trauma patients arriving at hospitals for emergency care will be negatively affected because the critically ill COVID patients compete for those resources. Summer activities typically generate traumatic accidents that put a strain on emergency hospital services.

Stenehjem said he can't believe the medical environment is in this dire situation—again.

"So, we're full, completely full. This is not the place that we want to be. You know 100% capacity is not where you want to run a hospital. That means that all the beds are full in the ICU, so when you get a trauma patient, a heart attack patient, or a stroke patient that needs an ICU bed, you've got to figure something out. You have to figure out who can move from the ICU to the floor, who doesn't need to be there, and how we can get that patient up into the unit. So, it is a position that is really taxing and stressful on our caregivers, both on the ICU and also the med Surg side, because what ends up happening is that you take care of sicker patients than you really should be on a general medical floor or surgical floor."

Stenehjem said hospitals might delay elective surgeries as the upward trend continues.

He said health providers are working more shifts without breaks, and it's wearing them down. He said he's never seen morale so low.

"Our hospitalists, our ICU doctors and nurses have taken such an emotional toll on this, and now seeing patients come in the hospital that are suffering where they didn't need to be. The majority of patients coming into the hospital with active COVID-19 are not vaccinated, and they could have been vaccinated. And if they were vaccinated, the vast majority of these hospitalizations would have been avoided. And so, seeing that so acutely, of a preventable episode of suffering, is just so wearing on our caregivers that –yea, I worry about them in terms of what it's going to look like. And we're staring down the barrel of a potentially really bad fall and winter without a whole lot of relief unless something changes."

Stenehjem said Pfizer and Moderna vaccine data show they protect against the Delta variant. There isn't data showing if natural immunity (those who have already had COVID) carries the same protections.

"The recommendation right now is if you've previously been infected with COVID, get vaccinated because we know that vaccination is going to protect you against Delta [variant]. We don't know that natural infection will protect you against Delta, and the vaccine is safe and effective. And so, get vaccinated."

Stenehjem said they're seeing younger people sickened by the Delta variant. They know it is more transmissible and that the symptoms are more severe. They don't know yet if the Delta variant specifically targets younger ages.

"More and more people are vaccinated as the age goes up, and so you've got a much more protected older population. So, think of those people as non-susceptible. And so, where is that virus going to find a susceptible host? It's that younger population. So, I think it's probably layered because we've got variable vaccination uptake based on age. You get a new variant that may have new characteristics to it. I think all of that leads us to the kind of a situation we're in."

Stenehjem said vaccinations, masking, hand washing, and social distancing are essential as the winter season approaches.

Find more information about COVID vaccines here.


KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.
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