SALT LAKE CITY — The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Utah has steadily dropped for nine straight days, and that has doctors cautiously optimistic, but they said we can't let our guard down just yet as the more contagious variant strains continue to spread.
In one month, COVID-19 related hospitalizations have dropped by more than half — going from 532 on Jan. 20 to 242 on Feb. 20.
"What we can even demonstrate locally is that we do feel there is significant change in the mobility and travel volumes between Thanksgiving and December," said Dr. Todd Vento, infectious disease Telehealth program director at Intermountain Healthcare.
In addition to the post-holiday slowdown in travel, Dr. Vento pointed to several factors, including social distancing, masking, and having more natural antibodies in the community.
"Even though we've had almost 400,000 people infected, it means those are up to 400,000 people that might be at less risk from having cases now and being hospitalized," he said.
Things are also looking good for older Utahns. Data indicates the risk of serious symptoms for those 50+ drops with the vaccine.
"If you think about it, those are the individuals who account for almost 3/4s of our hospitalizations, so if we've vaccinated a lot of our older folks, we will probably see fewer hospitalizations," said the doctor.
According to Utah Department of Health officials, hospitalizations have steadily dropped for nine straight days, but Dr. Vento says we're not out of the clear yet as new variants of the virus spread.
"When you looked at what happened when the UK strain established itself, the numbers went straight up — almost vertical," he said. "Every time you see cases go vertical, you know a percentage of those will be in the hospital/ICU, and a percentage will die."
He's staying cautiously optimistic. Dr. Vento says masking and social distancing help buy time for more vaccinations, while slowing down transmission rates.
"The more a virus replicates and grows and spreads, the more chance it has to make errors and become mutations that are harder to treat and do with vaccinations," he said. "That's why we say keep fighting the good fight."