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As Utah's COVID-19 Cases Soar, Hospitals May Soon Reach Full Capacity

Photo of the outside of the University of Utah Hospital building
Wikimedia Commons
Hospitals in Utah are preparing for a surge of COVID-19 patients due to the uptick in cases in the state.

Utah set a record high of new COVID cases on Friday, when health officials reported 676 new cases. And over the weekend, another 1,050 were reported. Now, hospitals are preparing to make room for more patients.

On any given day during the last couple of weeks in June there have been over 150 patients in the hospital. And more than 65% of all ICU beds are occupied according tothe Utah Department of Health’s website.

Dr. Eddy Stenehjem with Intermountain Healthcare said during a press conference the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has doubled compared to a month ago. But he said they still have the capacity right now to treat patients.

“If we continue this trend, and we do not abate the crisis that is going on now, we will reach capacity in the coming weeks,” Stenehjem said. “We will no longer be able to care appropriately for patients with COVID-19.”

Jess Gomez with IHC said even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they would generally function at 65-88% of capacity. He said that the hospital plans to transfer surge patients between their facilities. And a news release from Intermountain said they have found new ways to add intensive care beds. 

At University of Utah Health, they have 40 to 60 beds specifically for patients with COVID-19. 

Dr. Bob Pendelton, with the U, said they are working on expanding that number to upwards of 100 beds, if needed. He said the hospital has had time to retrofit existing ICU beds with ventilators and safety precautions to treat COVID-19 patients. 

“We've had a couple of months, 24 hours a day, seven days a week planning and preparing,” Pendelton said. 

He said they are also willing to team up with other hospital systems to “level load,” which means if one hospital is full, they will send patients to another with open beds.

Jessica Lowell is KUER’s news intern. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Lowell

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