Utah sent every phone in the state an emergency alert warning about rapidly rising Covid-19 cases

“State of Utah: COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Record cases. Almost every county is a high transmission area. Hospitals are nearly overwhelmed,” read the alert. “By public health order, masks are required in high transmission areas. Social gatherings are limited to 10 or fewer.”

“Be careful!” it warned, alongside a link containing more information about the ever-worsening coronavirus surge.

The messages were sent beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday and remained active for 15 minutes.

Typically used for severe weather and AMBER Alerts, state and local officials are increasingly deploying these Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to warn of Covid-19 spikes as well. Through late September, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), local officials had sent the public than 400 such alerts.

Typically they are targeted to a city; New Yorkers have gotten a few. But Utah’s appears to be the first time a WEA was sent to an entire state. Officials explained in a news statement that the “dire situation” there drove them to try the stark approach.

“Despite the ongoing pandemic, there are a number of people who are not aware of the dire situation we find ourselves in,” state officials said. “As a result, the emergency alert was an effort to “make sure nearly everyone is aware of the serious nature of the pandemic.”

The alert came as the state hit a grim milestone, as Utah hits record highs in several Covid-19 measures, including number of new cases, 7-day case average, and test positivity percentage, the state data dashboard shows.

In a press conference on Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called the state’s situation “one of the worst outbreaks in the country.”

The state reported a record 2,281 new Covid-19 cases Friday, according to state data. Previously, its record high was 1,989 cases on October 22. Furthermore, its 7-day case average now sits at a record of 1,621.7 cases, and its percentage of positive tests is at a record 18.17% as of Friday. All of these barometers are steadily climbing.

Meanwhile, 72.5% of Utah’s ICU beds are occupied, along with 54% of its traditional beds, according to the state dashboard, meaning that hospitals are quickly running out of space for new patients.

All this comes as the US hits a record of 9 million Covid-19 cases, a number that experts are warning will continue to surge.

CNN’s Jenn Selva contributed to this report.

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Utah governor ‘disgusted’ after health office vandalism

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday he is “disgusted” after someone shot at a state health department office in what he called an attempt to intimidate public health employees.

The agency said someone shot at its office overnight in the Salt Lake City suburb of Millcreek with what appeared to be a pellet gun. The vandalism occurred the night before the state reported its highest daily COVID-19 case count on Friday.

“I am disgusted by the attempts to intimidate public health workers,” Herbert said in a statement to Fox 13. “Targeting the selfless civil servants who work to keep our communities healthy is cruel and ridiculous. Our public safety teams will continue to work to protect the safety of those who work in public health.”

Photos shared with Fox 13 show a glass door and windows were damaged. No one was injured in the shooting.


The state health department reported a new daily record for confirmed coronavirus cases Friday with another 2,292 Utah residents infected. Utah also surpassed the grim milestone of 600 deaths from the coronavirus, just three weeks after passing 500 deaths.

The state also issued an emergency alert on mobile phones warning about the record number of cases and urging Utah residents in high transmission areas to follow mandatory mask orders and rules that curtail social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 15.8% to 18.2%, according to state data. The weekly average for new cases per day has increased from 1,355 to 1,622. State health officials have said that such a high positivity rate indicates the numbers of infection are far higher.

Herbert said people shouldn’t “become numb” to these numbers and the dire impact they will have on those infected and their families. He said Thursday’s new cases alone will likely result in 115 hospitalizations and 11 deaths based on Utah’s hospitalization and fatality rates.

“This will cause increasing strain on our already overworked medical professionals, and leave even more families with an empty chair at their dinner table,” Herbert wrote in a statement. “And that is to say nothing of the long-term effects many more of these Utahns will face, even as they recover.”

These record-breaking case numbers come a day after Herbert and other state officials warned that Utah hospitals may soon need to implement crisis care protocols because they “can’t keep up” with the recent coronavirus surge.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The shooting follows statewide anti-mask demonstrations, including two protests that occurred outside the home of State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn on Thursday. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said on social media that another state health employee’s home was also targeted but did not identify them.

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Utah hospitals ‘can’t keep up’ amid record-breaking surge

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and health officials said Thursday the state may soon need to implement crisis care protocols as hospitals reach a breaking point amid a record coronavirus surge.

Understaffing and a shortage of ICU beds could soon force Utah hospitals to shift to the protocols that dictate how patients will be treated when the system is overloaded.

Utah residents must take public health guidelines and mask-wearing seriously to avoid the drastic measures, health officials said.

“We cannot continue to argue about masking,” said Dr. Mark Shah, an emergency physician with Intermountain Healthcare. “We cannot continue to argue about whether this pandemic is real or made up. And we cannot continue to argue that health care will continue to be fine.”

In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 15.5% to 18.1%, according to state data. The weekly average for new cases per day has increased from 1,578 to 1,837. State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said that such a high positivity rate indicates the numbers of infection are far higher.


“The hospitals frankly just can’t keep up with the trend that we have going now as more and more people are going to be demanding hospital care,” Herbert told reporters.

Two more counties were placed in the high transmission category on Thursday, bringing the total with mask requirements to 23. Herbert, who has pushed for voluntary mask usage, said enforcement of health order requirements in the areas would be up to local officials.

There have been over 110,000 reported virus cases in Utah and 598 people have died, according to state data.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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Sophia Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Utah hospitals Covid: Proposed critera would ration health care at overwhelmed facilities

A group of administrators representing Utah’s hospitals presented Gov. Gary Herbert with a list of “criteria they propose doctors should use if they are forced to decide which patients can stay in overcrowded intensive care units,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

They told Herbert that they’d need to put the criteria in place if the coronavirus trend continues, Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association, told the Tribune.

To triage care, the proposal would take into account a patient’s age, health, situation and ability to survive, Bell told CNN affiliate KUTV on Sunday night.

“At the end of the day, some senior person, versus some healthy young person, probably would not get the nod,” Bell said.

Bell said Utah is suffering from a “phenomenal case growth and spread rate” of Covid-19.

The state reported more than 1,000 new cases per day for the last 12 days. On Sunday, Utah had its highest seven-day average for new daily cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 104,882 people in Utah have been infected with coronavirus, and at least 572 people have died.

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Even before a formal rationing of health care, one Utah mother who suffered a heart attack was delayed in getting adequate treatment due to the Covid-19 surge.

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Laurie Terry needed special equipment in a hospital’s intensive care unit. But a doctor told the family there weren’t enough resources available amid the growing Covid-19 surge.

Eventually, Terry was taken to a hospital that had the specialized care she needed, but her condition has gotten worse.

“We’ve seen, in the past couple of weeks, that our health care system is at capacity,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” she said. “I’m really not trying to scare anyone. I’m just trying to inform you of what’s going on and give you the facts.”

Herbert had one wish for the public:

“I would hope that people will take this seriously,” the governor said.

CNN’s Holly Yan and Martin Savidge contributed to this report.

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Utah hospitals plan on rationing care as coronavirus cases surge in the state: report

Hospitals in Utah will soon be forced begin prioritizing younger COVID-19 patients over older ones amid surging rate of hospitalizations from the virus in the state, doctors warned Utah’s governor on Thursday.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that hospital administrators in the state asked Gov. Gary Herbert (R) to approve a plan that would take drastic steps to reduce intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in the event of hospital ICUs being overwhelmed, which they said was a serious possibility in the days ahead.

If ICUs are nearing capacity, patients who are not seen to be improving even with intensive care will be asked to consider moving to a regular hospital bed. Doctors will also be asked to clearly communicate with patients about do-not-resuscitate orders.

“These discussions on goals of care need to occur independently from triage decisions,” read the guidelines, according to the newspaper. “Providers must be careful not to coerce patients or their families.”

Once ICUs reach capacity, hospitals will take matters into their own hands to determine ICU priority, according to the Tribune. Lower priority will be given to patients who are older if two patients are otherwise equally eligible for an ICU bed, while those who are pregnant receive higher priority.

A spokesperson for Herbert’s office and other state officials confirmed to the Tribune and other news outlets that ICUs in the state are nearing capacity, but did not confirm if Herbert would approve the plan proposed by hospital administrators.

“Right now, it feels very close to being under the crisis standards of care. The [hospital administrators] were very clear about the level of stress that they’re under,” said Joe Dougherty, an official with Utah’s Division of Emergency Management. “We can have a public health order…but even with that in place, we still need people to choose to limit their gatherings.”

“We are not there yet, but we are too close, uncomfortably close,” added a spokesman for the governor.

Utah’s daily rate of new coronavirus cases is now double what it was at the peak of the first wave of cases earlier this year, with state officials reporting 1,543 new cases on Saturday, according to The New York Times. 319 patients are currently hospitalized across the state with the virus, while 568 deaths have been reported in the state since the pandemic began.

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Utah heart attack victim competes for medical care amid surge in Covid-19 cases

The virus now had the ability to potentially kill a patient — his patient — even if she wasn’t infected.

Hours before, Terry, a 47-year-old mother and wife, had suffered a heart attack in her Herriman, Utah, home. According to her sister, she had to be revived four times in the ambulance on the way to the nearest hospital.

Once there, the medical staff and her doctor quickly determined Terry would likely die if she didn’t get the more sophisticated life-saving treatment found in an intensive care unit of a larger hospital.

“He (the doctor) told us right away, we’re doing everything we can to try and find a hospital that can take Laurie, and we can’t find one,” Stephanie Deer, Terry’s sister, said.

“If you would have seen the look on that doctor’s face, he was incredulous. He couldn’t believe he was telling us this.”

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Deer and her sister are not alone.

The state is experiencing “one of the worst (coronavirus) outbreaks in the country,” Utah Gov. Garry Herbert said Tuesday.

As a result, patients suffering other life-threatening medical events — non-Covid related — are in a dangerous competition for limited specialized medical care.

Utah is in the middle of the worst period for new Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. The state is among the 14 that reported their peak Covid-19 hospitalizations in the past week, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

The state’s total ICU usage was at almost 70%, Herbert said Tuesday, and almost 16% of the state’s ICU beds are used to treat Covid-19 patients.

On Friday, the University of Utah hospital’s ICU was at 104% capacity.

Covid surge taking a toll on Utah doctors

Dr. Emily Spivak, among the doctors helping treat Covid patients in Utah, feels frustrated and upset by the surge in cases — because she said she knows this shouldn’t be happening. Coronavirus is preventable by hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing.

She reached her breaking point in a parking lot outside the level one trauma center where she works in Salt Lake City.

“Well I was trying so hard not to,” she said, referring to her tears. “I mean honestly this is just super frustrating.”

Spivak said she sees many people in public no longer following US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — and believes they’ve just grown complacent.

“I don’t see an end. No one’s doing anything to stop what’s happening,” she said. “It’s kind of like people just are going out and living their lives not realizing that they are exhausting our healthcare system.”

Deer said she witnessed the frustration of doctors firsthand.

“I watched those nurses call for hours, trying other systems, doing everything they could, I mean desperate.” she said.

“I don’t know how the doctors and nurses and things are going to be able to keep this up when your whole life, your whole profession is dedicated to saving people’s lives and you can’t access medical care for a patient.”

And she

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