Utah Hospital's ICU at 104 Percent Capacity as State Sees Record COVID Hospitalizations

As new coronavirus cases in Utah rise, total current COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record high of 314 on Wednesday, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Wednesday's grim milestone marked the first time the state's current hospitalizations surpassed 300 since the outbreak began.

The state also saw a record number of patients in intensive care units (ICU), with 111 of the current 314 COVID-19 patients in hospital reported to be in an ICU, according to state figures.

Last Friday, the University of Utah Health hospital in Salt Lake City, the state capital, reported its ICU hit 104 percent capacity, with additional ICU beds set up to accommodate the soaring number of patients, according to Dr. Russell Vinik, the chief medical officer at the hospital.

University of Utah Health "provides care for Utahns and residents of five surrounding states in a referral area encompassing more than 10 percent of the continental United States," the hospital notes on its website.

Vinik said last week: "We've cut back where we can but it's precarious. We are very concerned about flu season, particularly if people don't get vaccinated. We can't take another hit."

Across the rest of the state, 73.2 percent of ICU beds are currently occupied, while 51.1 percent of non-ICU beds are filled, according to the latest figures released on the Utah Department of Health website.

The department noted: "Hospitals in Utah self-report the number of COVID-19 cases currently in their facilities each day. The data below [on the website] provide a snapshot of the number of people with COVID-19 who are currently hospitalized.

"Total bed and ventilator usage percentages are based on conventional capacity, not surge capacity. Due to differences in reporting systems, these numbers should not be compared with the cumulative hospitalization data identified through public health investigations," the department added.

The total number of confirmed cases in Utah has surpassed 98,000, with 557 reported deaths, as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The three-average of daily new cases in Utah rose sharply from early September, after flattening out from early August. The average count increased from mid-March to mid-July, before declining through early August, according to data compiled by JHU.

On Wednesday, the state reported its highest seven-day average of daily new infections since the outbreak began, with 1,291 average daily new cases reported on October 21, according to data compiled by Worldometer.

The total number of active cases (those currently infected who are in hospital or recovering at home) also reached a record high on Wednesday, with 24,843 active cases recorded on October 21, according to Worldometer.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert warned: "Utah will continue to be one of the worst hot spots in the world, if residents refuse to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines."

University of Utah Health hospital March 2020
A drive-through COVID-19 testing facility set up at a parking lot outside the University of Utah's Sugar House Health Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah, pictured iin March this year. The intensive care unit University of Utah Health hospital reached 104 percent capacity last Friday. George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, the governor revealed a new COVID-19 response plan to tackle the outbreak, with the state seeing "spiking case counts across the board," the governor's office said in a statement last Wednesday.

"Though Utah fared well during the initial onset of the pandemic, a new game plan has become increasingly necessary with infections rising during the summer months. Even with our mortality rates being amongst the best in the nation, a rise in cases puts the integrity of our healthcare systems at risk," the statement said.

The new plan features a "Transmission Index" framework, which uses three main criteria to determine the transmission level in any given county.

The three criteria include the seven-day average percentage of positive tests, the number of new cases reported over the past 14 days per 100,000 people and "statewide ICU utilization" to gauge the amount of space available in ICUs across the state, the statement noted.

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 41.3 million people across the globe since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 8.3 million in the U.S. Globally, more than 1.1 million have died following infection, while more than 28.1 million have reportedly recovered as of Thursday, according to JHU.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, illustrates a survey of U.S. adults concerned about catching COVID-19.

covid case states oct 12

The graphic below, also produced by Statista, illustrates U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.

coronavirus americans scared statista