Hospital over capacity in ‘unsustainable’ coronavirus spike

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One of Utah’s largest hospitals had no beds left Friday in its regular intensive-care unit as the governor declared the state’s weekslong spike in coronavirus cases “unsustainable.”

The University of Utah Health had to set up extra ICU beds staffed by doctors and nurses working overtime to care for its critical patients this week as the unit hit 104% capacity, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Vinik.

“We’ve cut back where we can but it’s precarious,” he said. “We are very concerned about flu season, particularly if people don’t get vaccinated. We can’t take another hit.”

Health officials again reported near record-breaking levels of new coronavirus cases Friday, meaning hospitalizations could continue to rise.

Utah health officials reported nearly 1,500 new cases Friday, a number that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert called “sobering” during a weekslong spike in new cases that started after the new school year began. Many Utah schools are holding in-person classes. Herbert again encouraged people to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Doctors like Vinik are also worried about the impending holiday season, where cold temperatures combined with more people gathering indoors could mean further spread of the pandemic. Hospitals statewide were at 73% capacity.

Herbert has not issued a statewide mask mandate, but earlier this week he unveiled a new plan that would automatically require face coverings in high-transmission counties. He warned Friday that more areas could face new restrictions if the case counts didn’t come under control.

“This is vital to ensure our healthcare system is not overwhelmed,” Herbert said in a statement.

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