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U of U Health delays non-urgent surgeries as hundreds of staff become sick

Posted at 1:31 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 19:16:09-05

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah Health is delaying all non-urgent surgeries and reducing the number of beds in its hospital as hundreds of staff have become sick in the past few days, officials announced Tuesday.

Hospital leaders revealed in a news conference that over 90% of all COVID-19 cases in Utah are now from the omicron variant, which is much more contagious than previous mutations of the virus.

The hospital is at 100% capacity and at least 500 staff are out sick with COVID-19 or isolating. Officials said they anticipate taking around 52 beds offline, or around 10% of their total hospital beds.

U of U Health leaders saw a downward trend in COVID-19 cases before Christmas. Then after Christmas, they say, new cases and hospitalizations spiked by 400%.

READ: Salt Lake Co. issues advisory as omicron cases surge after holiday

Officials said hundreds of staff members have become infected in recent days despite "doing all the right things" by being vaccinated, boosted and wearing high-quality protection. However, officials stated that someone who is vaccinated still stands a better chance than someone who isn't vaccinated. Those who are hospitalized are mainly non-vaccinated people.

The decision to reduce the number of available beds in the hospital is to guarantee safe, quality care for patients, officials said.

"As of today, our hospital is 100% capacity. We had 12 patients in the emergency department boarding waiting for a bed," said Dr. Russell Vinik, the chief medical officer at University of Utah Health.

Scheduled, non-emergency procedures will be canceled effective Wednesday, officials said.

"It’s not something that we want to do," said Dr. Robert Glasgow, the chief of surgery at University of Utah Health. "[But] right now in Utah, we're one of those places that is in the beginning of a surge."

On the plus side, data from South Africa shows the omicron variant peaks fast and ends more quickly than previous waves, according to officials. But, they are preparing for much more hospitalizations in the coming weeks.

"We can expect that those who are unvaccinated are at the same risk of hospitalizations due to omicron as they are with the delta variant," said Dr. Angela Dunn, the director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

This comes the day after four Utah counties set new one-day COVID-19 case records and the Utah Department of Health issued new COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines that mimic those recently announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with questions about surgeries at U of U Health should call their doctor.