Utah reports another 3,692 COVID-19 positives and 13 deaths; ICU capacity is now at 96%

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A customers enters the Green Pig Pub in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, during the lunch hour. The owners of 25 different Utah bars — including the Green Pig Pub — have sent a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert protesting the state health order that requires alcohol service to stop at 10 p.m They say the restriction is devastating the bar industry in Utah and has caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, hurt employees, and could force many to close.

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Saturday marked another dire day for Utah on the COVID-19 front as occupancy in the state’s intensive care units hit an all-time high, while the case numbers were up again — with a small caveat.

The Utah Department of Health on Saturday reported total ICU beds occupied is at 95.9% or (514 beds out of 536 available).

On top of that, the key referral center ICUs, which are the hospitals where most of the COVID-19 patients are, is at 101.7% or 468 patients for 460 beds.

ICUs are “brimming over,” said Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious disease physician at Intermountain Medical Center, but it is not a surprise.

It was a “mathematical inevitability,” Webb said.

These numbers were projected six weeks ago, he said, “because of the surge in cases for a couple of weeks in a row after Halloween,” driven mostly by young adults between 18 and 24, especially at large gatherings in places like Utah County.

There is a 14 to 21 day lag between the increase of case numbers and when hospitalizations go up, Webb said, and another lag before patients are moved to ICUs.

And because patients stay much longer in these ICUs than a medical ward, he said, “that creates a situation where we are just filling the bucket and never draining the bucket.”

When Gov. Gary Herbert instituted new restrictions in mid-November, the Intermountain doctor said, “we did see a modest reduction in cases, which was very important to the health care system.”

The numbers went up again after Thanksgiving “but not to the degree we feared,” Webb said. “The number of cases projected through January will be similar to where we are now with a gradual decrease — if the community can modify transmission and do things to bend the curve.”

Until then, the state’s health care workers are “finding creative ways to take care of patients,” he said, turning other wards into ICU-level care, adding staff and locations.

The bottom line is that the state’s health care system is “doing all it can” to absorb the increased patient load, Webb said, “and to maintain the quality of care Utahns deserve.”

As to Saturday’s cases, UDOH reported an increase of 3,692 positive cases from Friday, but that includes approximately 1,100 cases that were omitted because the department’s server was down Thursday and early Friday.

The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 2,706 per day; the average of positive laboratory tests is 25.8 percent.

The number of Utahns currently hospitalized with COVID-19 dipped slightly to 544, 24 fewer than Friday, UDOH reported. The total number of hospitalizations for the virus is 9,351.

The department reported 13 more deaths, including:

• A Davis County man between 65 and 84.

• A Utah County man between 65 and 84.

• Three Utah County women: Two between 65 and 84, and one older than 85.

• Two Salt Lake County residents, a man between 45 and 64 and a woman between 65 and 84.

• Two Washington County men, one between 65 and 84 and the other older than 85.

• Two Uintah County men, one between 45 and 64 and the other older than 85.

• A Weber County man between 65 and 84.

• A Garfield County woman between 45 and 64.