Returning students to class also poses a risk of the further spread of COVID-19.
Utah hospitals are being pushed to the limit again, with a post-vacation surge in coronavirus cases filling intensive care units to near record levels.
“Our hospital is full”, Dr Michael Good, CEO of the University of Utah Health, said bluntly in an interview Tuesday.
“I think it’s a priority. And it should be; this is worrying, ”said Dr Brandon Webb, infectious disease physician for Intermountain Healthcare. “This is a wake-up call that we need to be particularly vigilant and effective in doing things that we know are helping to reduce transmission rates in the community very quickly.
The unusually high amount of genetic information in coronaviruses makes them particularly prone to mutations, Webb said.
“These mutations cause a change in the proteins of the virus that make the virus more capable of causing infection, and these strains are what we are seeing now,” said Webb.
For example, he said, the dominant strain in the world is not actually the strain that emerged from Wuhan, China; it is the one that developed in Europe at the end of last spring.
And a new strain, B.1.1.7, the so-called “British variant,” was found in a Salt Lake County man who tested positive for the first time last month. His sample contained the mutation in subsequent genetic sequencing, health officials said last week.
“More than ever, we must quickly do all we can to bring down the rates of transmission in the community, because the fewer cases, the less replication and the less likely these new variants are likely to dominate.” , Webb said.
While the new variant is not more likely to cause serious illness or death, it will likely offset the “modest” reduction in new cases and community spread seen over the past few days, and create a larger pool. people who may require hospital care. , Webb said.
Not only that, but doctors are concerned that as college students and schools in Salt Lake City resume their classes, younger patients could generate a new flare-up like they did in the fall.
And there isn’t much room left in hospitals.
Utah’s intensive care units were 89% full on Tuesday and reached 97% of capacity a few days ago, approaching the record 99% reached in late December. Meanwhile, the state’s largest “referral” hospitals were reaching 91 percent of capacity and had passed 100 percent a few days ago.
“We’re hitting the peak that we’ve seen for the pandemic,” Webb said. “We plan … to have a full number of hospitals through February and beyond. And I think most of the healthcare workers I work with every day have settled into the reality that this is the case. They work hard, they do their job. They provide great care … but there is definitely fatigue.