Intensive Care Units in Utah are already at the threshold for capacity. And with the Thanksgiving holiday, healthcare providers are preparing for another surge in cases.
Eddie Stenehjem is an infectious disease expert at Intermountain Healthcare. During a press conference he said Thanksgiving could be a possible super spreader holiday.
“We absolutely worry that Thanksgiving will lead to increase community transmission, which will further our hospitalizations and that increased community transmission will continue through the Christmas holiday,” Stenehjem said.
Even as the number of new positive COVID-19 cases have started to plateau and there’s a decrease in the percent of positive test results, Stenehjem sid healthcare workers are worried about the high number of cases from the last couple weeks.
“Even if we see our case counts go down, we know that because what happens with hospitalizations is that they lag 10 to 14 days after cases are identified,” he said. “So even if we see cases come down this week, we anticipate our hospitalizations that continue to rise for at least another 10 to 14 days.”
He said it doesn’t help that previous trends show cases spiking after holidays.
“When you look back at Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Labor Day, we've all seen spikes that occurred seven to 10 days after those holidays. Same thing with Halloween,” he said. “What makes Thanksgiving so much worse than the previous holidays is all of those holidays had been focused on being outside.”
He said because Thanksgiving events will be inside this year, it will create a higher propensity to spread the virus.
As hospitalizations continue to increase in the state, Stenehjem said any more burden on the hospital system will pose a threat to other care for non COVID-19 patients.
“What this means is that we are unable to accept patients that need ICU care for non COVID related reasons,” he said. “For example, a stroke, a major trauma, a heart attack, it becomes harder and harder for us to be able to find both a bed and a caregiver to manage these patients that need care emergently, for their non COVID related issues.”
He said healthcare workers will work on Thanksgiving day. And they are preparing surge plans to bring in new nurses and redeploy caregivers who don’t generally work in the hospital setting.