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Healthcare workers and physicians discuss what to expect as Omicron surges

A white person with short hair lies in a hospital bed, wearing a ventilator mask.
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Old woman with ventilator mask on hospital bed fights for her life against COVID-19. One of the very few individuals who is able to receive this therapy.

Utah public health officials addressed the spiking Omicron surge and record number of COVID cases overwhelming Utah caregivers Thursday.

“It is a dire time for all of us, for our health care teams in particular, to stand in this space again. . . . In one of my care departments, I had three nurses leave, because they can't do this again. They feel like we're going backwards," said Tracey Nixon, the Chief Nursing Officer for the University of Utah.

Nixon, as well as several other representatives from Utah’s hospital systems and the Utah Department of Health this week, addressed the impact on Utah’s caregivers as the virus sweeps through the state at a record pace.

Dr. Arlen Jarrett, Chief Medical Officer of Steward Healthcare, said that even with a lower hospitalization and death rate with Omicron infections, there’s still a lot to be concerned about: “The number of people who are infected is so overwhelming that even a lower rate of infection of hospitalization from these individuals translates into an overwhelming number of hospitalizations and possibly an increased number of deaths.”

Dr. Brandon Webb, infectious disease physician and Chair of Intermountain Health Care's COVID therapeutics committee, added, “We have shifted into a true crisis phase. . . . The amount of available treatment to Utahns is very, very limited. It's so limited, in fact, that roughly one out of 100 new test positive cases every day, would have the availability of a treatment. . . . And of those most eligible . . . only one in 10. . . . We live in an all-you-can-eat society where scarcity is a very foreign concept. And this has created a terribly difficult situation.”

Dr. Michelle Hoffman, Deputy Director at the Utah Department of Health explained the most effective strategy at preventing hospitalizations and death is not short supply.

“And of course, as you all know that one thing is vaccines. . . . We need more people to start their vaccination series that have not. . . . We need everyone who is eligible to get their booster doses now. . . . We're only vaccinating a little bit more every day, you can't overwhelm our vaccine system, please get out and get vaccinated," Hoffman said.

Colleen Meidt is a science reporter at UPR as well as a PhD student at Utah State University. She studies native bees in the Mojave Desert and is particularly interested studying the conservation status of the Mojave Poppy Bee. In her free time, Colleen enjoys photography and rock climbing in the canyons.