In light of the coming holiday and rising case counts, local physicians are urging the public to adhere to the same five guidelines of mitigating COVID-19 spread as they have throughout the pandemic.
“I think it’s important to understand that we all have a part in this process, and some of us are much more vulnerable to this illness than others,” said Dr. Ed Redd, the medical director of Bear River Health Department. “And we may not know beforehand if we’re vulnerable or not.”
Dr. Redd was joined by Dr. Todd Brown, the medical director at Logan Regional Hospital, on Monday to urge people to maintain caution during the holiday season and follow the guidelines to stay home when sick, wear a mask, wash hands, maintain physical distance and avoid gatherings — especially those where any of the precautions above won’t be in place.
“We, like all hospitals, are struggling with how do we manage the the numbers that are coming to us,” Brown said.
According to the Bear River Health Department, nearly 2,800 new cases were confirmed within the last two weeks, meaning roughly the same number are estimated as “active.” The rolling seven-day average is above 213 new cases a day with a test-positivity rate of nearly 20% over the same period. The high rate of spread is “concerning,” according to Redd.
“The increase in cases is not just due to the increased testings,” he said during the virtual press conference. “It’s due to the fact that more people have the disease. And that’s evidenced not just by the test results, but also by the numbers of people that are occupying hospital beds.”
Since it is part of the larger Intermountain Healthcare network, Dr. Brown said Logan Regional Hospital has the advantage of sending COVID-19 patients who need more intensive care to “COVID centers” like the hospital at the University of Utah, McKay-Dee and Utah Valley Hospital — though it won’t be a sustainable system for long.
“As we do that, that means we burden another location with our patients,” Brown said. “So as we have our transfers from Logan Regional to Salt Lake City, that adds one to their census and means that they can’t take care of one more person in their community. So we’re trying to do everything we can do here to manage the patients that are appropriate to stay in a community hospital.”
In addition, though there are beds available, there’s not always the staff present to handle the increased need. Though a team of nurses from New York has been dispatched to Utah hospitals, there aren’t set plans for any to come to Logan. Traveling nurses have been hired and will start by early December.
How people handle this week could be crucial to determining the outcome of the weeks to follow, according to Redd.
“If they do those (precautionary) sorts of things, you could theoretically see a decrease in case counts despite the Thanksgiving holiday,” he said. “But if people are cavalier about this and just pull (the masks) off, tired of dealing with COVID-19, and just give up on it, then I think we could see increased case counts, maybe increased test positivity rates.”
Although small gatherings are believed to be one of the primary causes behind community spread, Gov. Gary Herbert ended the two-week ban on gatherings including people of different immediate households prior to Thanksgiving due to the impossibility of enforcement and controlling what people do in their own homes.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.
The governor also announced a goal of testing 250,000-300,000 individuals a week to help catch asymptomatic spread until the vaccine is widely accessible.