The Utah doctor denies that the intensive care unit is overloaded
Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune offers free access to critical stories about the coronavirus. Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter sent to your inbox every morning. To support journalism like this, please donate or become a subscriber.
A senior Utah doctor on Friday reiterated warnings that the state’s intensive care units are busy and denied allegations that these alarms are exaggerated.
“There really aren’t any other numbers that are hidden. These are the facts, ”said Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease doctor at Intermountain Healthcare. “And if these are our realities, we have to deal with these realities.”
Another 1,749 Utahners tested positive for COVID-19 last day, and eight more have died from the coronavirus.
School-age children got one in four of all new cases, the Utah Department of Health said – 433 total. There were 198 cases in children ages 5 to 10; 81 cases in children 11 to 13 years of age; and 154 cases in children between the ages of 14 and 18.
The 7-day rolling average for positive tests is 1,574 per day.
According to the Utah Department of Health dashboard, 95.7% of the state’s ICU beds were occupied as of Friday. Among the state’s referral hospitals – the large facilities that channel most cases – capacity was 97%. Anything over 85% is considered practically full.
Vento reiterated that the availability of an intensive care bed in a hospital does not guarantee that staff will be available to care for a patient in it.
“This bed can stand in a room, and if I don’t have a nurse, a ventilation technician, a doctor, or an experienced practice provider, I can’t take care of a patient. So this bed is worthless, ”Vento said Friday during Intermountain’s weekly COVID-19 briefing on Facebook Live. “The patient who lies down in this bed might as well be lying on the floor in the living room of his house because nobody will take care of him.”
The health system is overwhelmed, said Vento after more than 18 months of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We lose health care workers because we’re tired, demoralized, tired of doing the same thing for 18-20 months – and asking and begging the community for the same help to try to help,” said Vento.
In a preliminary session of the Utah legislature on Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, accused Intermountain of overstating its ICU capacity issues.
“IHC says they have run out of space. You have no place. You have run out of employees. They chased away their doctors. They chased away their nurses. They made it hell for their employees, ”said Ray. “They were caught in the middle of a pandemic trying to change their business model to grow their profits by billions so they could make more money. You were caught with your pants down. “
An Intermountain spokesperson called Ray’s comments “incorrect”, noting that health systems in Utah and across the country have been affected by the pandemic and the continued increase in cases caused by the Delta variant.
Without mentioning Ray by name, Vento said that criticizing health care workers “is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.”
Vento asked the Utahners to put themselves in the shoes of an ICU nurse. “You do seven shifts in a row,” said Vento. “Then someone says, ‘Hey, can you take this shift because someone else isn’t there?’ or “someone else had to stop because they were very stressed about taking care of COVID”. And then you go home and have someone on the news – or your neighbor – say, ‘Oh, these numbers aren’t accurate. You are not really overwhelmed. ‘ You can imagine how demoralizing that is. “
Last week, Intermountain President and CEO Dr. Marc Harrison, suggests that the hospital system will postpone “urgent … but not life-threatening” surgeries in 13 of its hospitals – because, as Vento put it on Friday, “it would be unsafe” for us to perform this operation if we had the person on the intensive care unit. “
The postponements began Wednesday, and in three days Intermountain postponed or postponed about 130 operations, Vento said. Meanwhile, health care workers are trying to compensate for this with telemedicine sessions, remote patient monitoring, home visits by nurses and other ways to “do some hospital care at home,” he said.
“The goal would be to try that for maybe a couple of weeks and see where we stand,” said Vento.
Vento, who had served in the U.S. Army for 26 years, compared fighting the COVID-19 pandemic to being in a combat zone.
“Our enemy as a human is the COVID virus. This is our only enemy. There are no more enemies, ”said Vento. “If someone shoots you in a combat zone, you know you have to shoot back immediately. We have to fire on COVID. We can’t shoot each other. “
Vento called on “leaders, individuals in the community, all citizens” to continue fighting the virus.
“We need everyone’s help,” he said.
In the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahners were 5.3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to an analysis by the state health ministry. The unvaccinated were also 6.8 times more likely to be hospitalized and 6.2 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.
Another 3,573 Utahners were fully vaccinated the previous day, bringing the total to 1,642,717 – just over 50% of the total Utah population.
Vaccine doses administered / total doses administered on the last day • 6,422 / 3,372,714.
Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,642,717.
Cases reported on the previous day • 1,749.
Deaths Reported on Last Day • Eight.
There were two deaths in Washington County – a man aged 25 to 44 and a man aged 65 to 84.
A Salt Lake County resident died – a woman over the age of 85. The other deaths were a Box Elder County man aged 45 to 64; a woman from Iron County 65-84; a man from Uintah County 45-64; a man from Utah County 45-64; and a woman from Wasatch County 15-24.
Tests Reported Last Day • 12,033 people were tested for the first time. A total of 20,637 people were tested.
Hospital stays on the previous day • 592. That is 10 more than reported on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 225 are in intensive care, the same number reported Thursday.
Percentage of positive tests • According to the original state method, the rate is 14.5% over the last day. That’s higher than the 7-day average of 13.7%.
The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same person. The price on Thursday was 8.5% and thus below the seven-day average of 10.1%.
[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]
Total numbers so far • 490,985 cases; 2,787 deaths; 21,308 hospital stays; 3,338,373 people tested.