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'Dangerous times' - U of U Hospital ICU reaches 99 percent capacity

Posted at 5:35 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 19:35:07-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Friday marked another record setting day for positive COVID-19 tests in Utah. Alongside the sharp uptick in cases, the University of Utah Hospital announced their ICU was at 99% capacity on Friday.

The hospital opened an ICU surge unit three weeks ago to deal with the increase in patients. At that time, only half of the unit was being used, but things changed as of today.

"We are super busy," said Dr. Russel Vinik, the Chief Medical Operations Officer at the University of Utah Hospital. "We today [sic] have hit a record where we have over 60 COVID patients in the hospital right now."

Dr. Vinik says the hospital's ICU surge unit has been expanded to meet the needs of all the new patients. He added that doctors have seen the influx coming for weeks.

"We expected to get here," he added. "And we expect it to continue to go up, so this is [sic] dangerous times."

He said that hospitals tend to see ICU surges weeks after a spike in positive cases in a community. As Utah continues to have old case count records broken week after week, Dr. Vinik says hospitals have yet to see the full impact of the virus.

"Once this peaks, then maybe about three or four weeks later we'll see the full impact on our hospital census," he said.

Doctors and nurses at the hospital are once again pleading with the public to avoid social gatherings of ten or more, and most importantly, to wear a mask where social distancing isn't possible.

"If we just had 95% or more mask compliance," he added, "we could almost beat this virus with just mask compliance."

Dr. Vinik said a person should wear a mask if, "you're going into a building or vehicle that is not your own... and if you're going to be outdoors and within six feet of somebody."

With Thanksgiving just weeks away, he said masking up also applies to family members who aren't part of the same household.

"There is no free pass for family members," he said. "Even if they are family, you should wear a mask and they should wear a mask."

Dr. Vinik said morale remains high among hospital staff, but some are expressing frustration at the continued rise in cases. He said the hospital has extra beds and staff at the ready as they foresee hospitalizations to continue to rise over the coming weeks, and possibly months.