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Pioneer Day weekend could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases, doctors warn

Posted at 9:31 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 23:48:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY — As we head into Pioneer Day weekend, Utah could be heading for a surge of COVID-19 cases — if data from past holiday weekends is any indication.

Intermountain Healthcare explains that a potential surge depends on what people do this weekend, and the measures they take to wear masks and social distance.

Dr. Todd Vento, infectious disease physician and Medical Director of the Infectious Disease Telehealth Program, described how we are heading into the holiday weekend with the highest overall amount of hospitalizations Utah has seen due to COVID-19.

Forty percent of those hospitalizations, he said, are in the ICU.

Medical professionals are watching the numbers every day.

"We still are showing that the numbers are still estimated to increase," Dr. Vento said. "We expect, for example, in the next 14 days an additional 160 to 200-ish hospitalizations."

Their number one worry in the coming weeks, he said: Staffing. Number two: Enough places for patients.

"Those are the key areas we look at — the staffing, the ventilators, the ICU, number of hospital beds — on a regular basis," he said. "But we are concerned what's happening in community."

Dr. Vento expressed that Intermountain Healthcare is, so far, handling the current COVID-19 hospitalizations. He said they have had to transfer patients who need more aggressive care on occasion.
The hospital system also has a surge plan in place, should the system start to become overwhelmed.

"Right now we've been able to manage that," said Dr. Vento. "But this concept of manage versus being overwhelmed, can be this sort of fine line."

They'll be watching what happens during the Pioneer Day holiday weekend.

"Everything we do as citizens in the community does translate to what happens in the hospital," Dr. Vento said. "And then unfortunately, it translates to what happens in terms of deaths."

Dr. Vento explained that it takes about a week to 10 days for cases to begin showing up after a weekend with a surge. They start to worry what happens another three to seven days after that for hospitalizations, he said.

"Going into a three-day weekend in particular, even more important for folks to really concentrate on wearing a mask in public," Dr. Vento said. "Don't go out if you don't have to. And if you do, focus on your physical distancing."