SALT LAKE CITY — With Utah close to 3,000 dead as a result of contracting COVID-19, hospitals with ICU units best equipped to treat severe patients are basically 100% full.
Physicians say they're still in the thick of the pandemic as they deal with the crush of COVID cases and deaths, but they're trying to find silver linings wherever they can.
They say the potential good news right now is there may not be a large winter surge because half of Utah’s population is now vaccinated.
"So that takes out half of the population that are no longer really high risk for severe disease,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem with Intermountain Healthcare.
Yet that means hundreds of thousands of Utahns remain unvaccinated, and it’s the unvaxxed patients who are overwhelmingly filling Utah intensive care units all across the state.
As sad and tragic as it is for those who have passed away and their families, it’s a recurring and exhausting nightmare for frontline doctors and nurses caring for patients.
“It’s really sad to see illness like this, that in many cases can be prevented," added Stenehjem. "And so it is challenging to come in and do this every day, have these same conversations with patients every day knowing that some of it, it’s preventable.”
Stenehjem said another byproduct of all of being at full capacity is having to delay or refuse certain surgeries which require ICU follow up. On top of that, Intermountain Healthcare has temporarily stopped taking in-patient referrals from nearby states due to the lack of bed space.
Behind the scenes, officials are planning for the possibility that COVID numbers might actually get worse before they start to go down.
"What are our contingency plans for that?," asked Stenehjem. "So a lot of action going on across Intermountain Healthcare, all focused on being able to provide the care we want to be able to provide to our patients with COVID-19 and also with a non-COVID-19 illnesses.”
Stenehjem and other medical professionals continue urging those who are not yet vaccinated to do so. And for those who are vaccinated to get the booster shot when it’s available.