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'This is meant to alarm folks': Utah infectious disease expert urges a return to COVID-19 precaution

Posted at 5:35 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 20:35:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. Todd Vento clearly approached his words to the press Tuesday with the intent to get attention for a serious issue — what he describes as a need to get serious about COVID-19 precaution in Utah once again.

"This year we're not masking, and not only do we have a much more aggressive delta variant that's spreading more rapidly and more easily, [but] people are getting sicker," said Vento, Intermountain Healthcare's infectious disease medical director. "We're not focusing on masking and social distancing. You can see what that is. It's a recipe for disaster, and this is meant to alarm folks."

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Vento said he doesn't want people to panic — just to realize Utah's ICUs are already near capacity.

"You can't have a bed with no nursing staff, no respiratory tech, no ICU assistant care providers taking care of an individual in that bed. We are already at and beyond functional capacity in several of our facilities," he said.

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Vento added that he's especially concerned because fall is approaching, with activities moving inside and school back in session.

"That [school] population is a reservoir for infection. Fortunately, they don't get severe COVID in high numbers, but they get COVID, and you're going to have them together every single day and they don't have the opportunity for vaccine. They have to wear masks," Vento said.