SALT LAKE CITY — After a week of record new COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations, Utah hospital officials are sounding the alarm that the state might soon need to implement crisis standards of care.
They just don’t know how soon.
If crisis standards of care are invoked by the state at the request of hospital leaders, hospitals with no room would make decisions based on triage criteria, which is when health care providers prioritize treatment based on the severity of patients’ cases and their likelihood of survival with or without treatment. First responders and hospitals use triage in mass casualty situations.
Because the state has exceeded 1,500 new cases for the past several days, “we just know that hospitalization follows disease, and so we have to think in the next week or two that we’re going to be at the maximum of even our contingency planning for ICU beds,” said Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association.
“We have truly a pandemic loose in our community, in our state, and we just know where it’s going,” Bell said.
Utah health officials on Sunday reported another 1,765 COVID-19 cases — the state’s second-highest daily case count — and the death of someone between the ages of 15 and 24.
The new cases were confirmed out of 8,702 tests, with a 20.3% positive rate, according to the Utah Department of Health. The rolling seven-day average for new cases is 1,490 per day, and the average positive test rate is 16.6%.
On Friday, the state confirmed just under 2,000 cases — the record since the start of the pandemic. Saturday brought the previous second-highest daily case count, with just over 1,600.
The makeshift hospital at the Mountain America Expo Center remains an option for treating COVID-19 patients, Bell said, “but we have more beds than we have skilled medical teams to deal with them in our hospitals, so how can we take those teams and put them in another facility? It doesn’t make sense. So you’ve got to generate other teams to deal with people in the expo center.”
That means people need to be brought in from outside hospital systems, or those who already work in the state will need to work “around the clock,” he said.
“People must get serious about wearing masks and social distancing. If this threat continues, then people will start withdrawing from restaurants and bars and gyms and public places. People are so worried about government imposing a lock down, but at some point, the disease is bad enough that people start to lock themselves down,” Bell said.
Currently, 308 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah — 120 of whom are in intensive care units, which are 76.1% full overall. On Saturday, 310 patients were hospitalized with the virus throughout the state.
Also on Sunday, the State of Utah COVID-19 Response Twitter page issued a plea from Gov. Gary Herbert.
“I ask Utahns to not just lean on your own experience during this pandemic. Learn from the science and examples you see. You don’t have to wait until you personally experience a crisis with COVID-19 before you realize you could have done more,” Herbert said in the statement.
Now 104,882 cases have been confirmed out of 1,031,511 people tested in Utah since the pandemic began, with an overall positive rate of 10.2%. Hospitalizations since the outbreak hit a total of 5,049.
Four additional deaths were reported, among them a male between the ages of 15-24 who was hospitalized when he died. Additional information including his county of residence was not released due to low death counts in that age category, health officials said. Fewer than five deaths have been confirmed in the 15-24 range in Utah.
The other deaths Sunday were an Emery County woman between 45-64; a Washington County man between 65-84; and a Washington County man older than 85, all of whom were hospitalized when they died.
New COVID-19 cases reported Sunday by health district:
- Salt Lake County, 737.
- Utah County, 507.
- Davis County, 153.
- Weber-Morgan, 121.
- Bear River, 69.
- Southwest Utah, 60.
- Tooele County, 28.
- Central Utah, 24.
- Wasatch County, 21.
- Summit County, 16.
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 13.
- Southeast Utah, 13.
- San Juan County, 3.