SALT LAKE CITY — In a video statement, Governor Spencer Cox addressed the recent surge in COVID-19 cases that are starting to overwhelm Utah's testing lines and health systems.
"Recent COVID-19 case counts and deaths are a sobering reminder of just how contagious this Omicron variant is. Like every other state, we expect record case numbers for the next few weeks," the governor said. "The good news is we have the tools to beat this, but they only work if we use them. If, for whatever reason, you have been putting off getting vaccinated or boosted, now is the time."
The governor urged Utahns to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. He said vaccinations and boosters have been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
"Vaccines work, they’re safe and it’s easier than ever to get one for everyone age 5 and up. Please visit your doctor, your local pharmacy or coronavirus.utah.gov to find a location that’s near you. If you feel sick, please get tested and stay home. If you’re indoors, mask up with an N-95 or KN-95 mask," Gov. Cox said.
Addressing health care workers, the governor expressed his gratitude for their sacrifices over the past two years and warned that hospitals will be full again over the next few weeks. In a news conference earlier Thursday, Utah hospitals warned they were facing problems in some places because of staffing shortages as COVID-19 cases continued to impact intensive care units.
Thursday brought a new record of cases — 8,913 and 13 new deaths. The Utah Department of Health reported 530 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized, with 188 of those patients in an ICU. At referral centers (where most COVID patients are being treated) the ICU beds are 96% occupied. Staffing shortages have impacted the availability of beds.
"Utahns, let’s do everything we can to ease their burdens," the governor said, offering optimism for the pandemic entering an endemic phase. "I am more optimistic than ever that this wave will bring an end to the pandemic as we know it. Please be kind and patient as we work to get through this together."
Some political leaders were already implementing some measures. Summit County issued a mask requirement indoors and in lines in response to the surge in cases.
On Utah's Capitol Hill, legislative leaders were concerned and meeting to discuss it. Senate President J. Stuart Adams' office said they were closely monitoring the situation and reviewing policies. House Speaker Brad Wilson's office said as of right now, there were no plans to impose any restrictions "but things are constantly changing."
The Utah State Legislature passed a series of laws last year severely restricting the ability to immediately impose some COVID-19 mitigation measures.