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In Stretched Utah ICUs, a 'Heartbreaking' Prediction

Hospitals have informally begun rationing care, and a further COVID surge is anticipated
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2020 7:17 AM CST

(Newser) – Last month, hospital administrators started preparing for overflowing intensive-care units by setting up crisis criteria that, amid a predicted surge in COVID-19 patients, would help them prioritize who gets to stay in the ICU and who doesn't. There are still ICU beds in the state available, but very few of them—45 at last count on Thursday, according to Utah Hospital Association CEO Greg Bell—and an informal rationing of care has begun, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. On Saturday, there were 3,395 new virus cases in the state, and the day before Utah smashed its daily record with 4,588, per the Deseret News. Hospitalization records were also broken Saturday, with 551 COVID-19 admissions, and doctors are now worrying what's going to happen once patients from these thousands of new diagnoses start needing medical care in the coming days.

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"We're going to feel that in the next week or so," Dr. Sean Callahan, a University of Utah critical care physician, tells the Tribune. "Our hospital already is at 100% capacity." Hospitals have been pulling in doctors and nurses who don't usually work in the ICU, and the quality of care is already suffering. An anticipated admissions surge will only make things worse. "It's going to be heartbreaking," Callahan says. Meanwhile, the Daily Herald reports that, in recent weeks, the staff from at least one hospital has had to deal with conspiracy theorists calling and trying to get inside the facility to find "proof" for their false belief that the coronavirus is a hoax, according to Kyle Hansen, administrator of Provo's Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital. "I want the community to know that it's true what is being said," Hansen says. "We are very stretched and our staffs are at this point ... very exhausted." (Read more Utah stories.)

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