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Utah doctor on front lines of COVID-19 shares concerns as delta variant surges

Posted at 11:28 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 13:31:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Right now, COVID cases are rising at a rate we haven’t seen in more than six months, while ICU beds across the state are close to full capacity.

The delta variant is now causing COVID to spread as quickly and easily as chickenpox, with the vast majority of new infections spreading among the unvaccinated.

Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said it’s something he did not envision more than halfway through the summer.

READ: Delta variant appears to be as transmissible as chickenpox, CDC warns

He said Utah now has the 11th highest rate of new COVID cases per 100,000 people in the entire country.

Dr. Stenehjem went on to say that state officials have done an excellent job administering the vaccine to those who were ready, willing and eager to get it.

And for the most part they are not catching the delta variant and if they do, the effects of the virus are dramatically less severe.

“And this just comes down to the fact that vaccines work," said Dr. Stenehjem. "Vaccines prevent cases, they prevent hospitalizations, they prevent deaths and this isn’t rocket science. This is what we’d expect in terms of the epidemiology of the virus across the U.S. The lower the vaccine rates the higher number of cases you’re going to have.”

READ: Utah leaders have no plans for another statewide mask mandate as COVID cases surge

He said we still have an uphill climb convincing the 30 to 40% of Utahns who are still undecided or against getting the vaccine. But, he said we need to keep trying.

Dr. Stenehjem said he personally hasn’t dealt with or heard of a single patient dying as a result of receiving the vaccine but he has seen hundreds of patients die from virus.

In terms of those who have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine possibly needing a booster shot or a third dose, he said they are analyzing the science and data on that. But, so far it looks like it might help.

Doctors hope to have a more definitive answer in the coming days.