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MURRAY — Intensive care unit bed utilization across all Utah hospitals is currently at 88%, according to the state health department's Monday report, while ICU beds are 92% occupied at the 16 Utah hospitals best equipped to care for COVID-19 patients.
"When 85% capacity is reached, Utah will be functionally out of staffed ICU beds, indicating an overwhelmed hospital system," the state's coronavirus website states.
Out of the 545 Utahns hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly 200 are receiving treatment in the ICU, state health officials reported.
"We have good care and we have a very low case-fatality rate, but those things change when we can't take care of patients in numbers that we can handle," said Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare.
Vento said Utah hospitals are doing everything they can to prevent crisis care standards.
"If we get to that step that means we've failed," Vento said. "We've failed as a community. We've failed in all ways because we didn't prevent the transmission in our communities and it came to our hospitals."
The governor is in charge of authorizing crisis care guidelines, which state: "ICU/ventilator care needs to be increasingly focused on those that are more likely to benefit from it, to meet the goal of 'the greatest good for the greatest number.'"
Utah Hospital Association president Greg Bell said so far, hospitals have risen to the challenge. "If we continue to get these numbers then we're just going to have to start making some hard decisions," Bell said.
There is worry about the possibility of a surge in patients since hospitalizations lag a few weeks behind case counts. Bell said it's yet to be seen what the result will be of 3,500 to 4,000 daily cases.
"Because what we're seeing now was based on 1,500 to 2,200 cases a day," Bell said.
"Bottom line is we still have a lot of COVID being transmitted in the communities," Vento said.
Vento said Utahns can help protect the hospital system by not gathering over Thanksgiving.
"This is the time to really listen to public health experts and say, 'We can prevent a terrible December and January by not doing the things that we would normally do,'" Vento said.