SALT LAKE CITY — One more person has died from COVID-19 in Utah, bringing the total number of fatalities to 18, health officials reported Saturday.
The patient was the first Wasatch County resident to die of the disease, and was described only as over age 60 with underlying health conditions, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Intermountain Healthcare officials announced that two teams of 50 clinicians including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists and other caregivers will deploy to New York City to help battle the pandemic there.
As Dr. Dixie Harris, Intermountain critical care physician pulmonologist, discussed her reasons for volunteering to work in a hotbed of the virus, she recalled her time in training during the HIV epidemic in Atlanta.
“And during that time, almost every patient I saw died from their virus. This is another virus that’s very severe, it’s killing a high percentage of patients, but not as much as HIV. But it’s really torn up health systems, and we want to go there to help them,” Harris said.
“I think my primary driver is this is what care providers do, and this is what we’re called to do. This is just kind of what we signed up for.” — Dr. Dixie Harris, Intermountain Healthcare critical care and pulmonary physician
Utah’s system remains “under control” as it so far handles fewer COVID-19 patients than expected, Harris said.
One-hundred ninety people have required hospitalization in Utah for COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic. State health officials are working to compile current hospitalization data — but officials have said the hospitalization rate hovers around 10%.
While physicians do typically face risk and concerns of getting sick while treating patients, according to Harris, “we are lucky in the fact that we have many people in front of us who’ve already learned.”
Providers have learned how to protect themselves against similar viruses, she said. “I’m going to be as vigilant as I possibly can. ... Because we’ve got to stay safe and healthy.”
The providers were all screened and are well-rested.
“And so this is a time for us to go help them. They have been working 24/7 for days, so they’re tired. Their immune systems are down. So this is a good time for us to go help them,” Harris explained.
Hundreds of Intermountain caregivers have expressed interest in helping fight the pandemic in other communities, said Dr. Paul Krakovitz, Intermountain’s chief medical officer for specialty based care.
The caregivers will help New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Northwell Health in an exchange. When Utah sees its surge, which Intermountain officials project will happen in May and into early June, providers from the New York hospitals will “aim to return the favor,” officials said.
The first team will leave on Tuesday, and the second will leave later in the week or the following week. Intermountain is sending the clinicians with their own personal protective gear, and they will also receive gear from the New York hospitals. Each will stay for two weeks.
“We expect that as our teams come back, that they will come back with a lot of firsthand knowledge that will only make our care better for the patients of Utah,” Krakovitz said.
“We’re very creative in this country, and it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve learned how to do, what they’ve learned how to communicate,” Harris explained.
When the clinicians return to Utah, they will be checked for symptoms and tested.
Meanwhile, 2,206 people have now tested positive for the virus in Utah as of Saturday, up about 100 since the day before. About 42,500 people have now been tested, a nearly 1,750 rise from the previous day.
The breakdown of Utah COVID-19 cases by health district as of Saturday:
- Salt Lake County, 1,071; 94 hospitalized
- Summit County, 300; 25 hospitalized
- Utah County, 295; 18 hospitalized
- Davis County, 180; 17 hospitalized
- Wasatch County, 98; 5 hospitalized
- Weber-Morgan, 93; 9 hospitalized
- Southwest Utah, 53; 7 hospitalized
- Bear River, 45; 8 hospitalized
- Tooele County, 31; 4 hospitalized
- San Juan County, 8; 2 hospitalized
- Central Utah, 6; 1 hospitalized
- Southeast Utah, 5; 0 hospitalized
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 8; 0 hospitalized