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Utah reserve medics deployed to N.Y. to fight COVID-19

Utah confirmed coronavirus cases surpass 1,600

Hill Air Force medic Katherine Trout discusses traveling Sunday, April 5, 2020, to help New York City after being called up to fight COVID-19.
Hill Air Force Base medic Katherine Trout discusses traveling Sunday, April 5, 2020, to help New York City after being called up to fight COVID-19.
John Wilson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Hill Air Force medics boarded flights Sunday to help New York City after being called up to fight COVID-19.

The city has seen more than 2,200 deaths and nearly 61,000 cases, according to the New York City Health Department, which are overwhelming its health care system.

Meanwhile, Utah’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday rose to 1,606 — an increase of 177 over the day before. No new deaths were reported.

Katherine Trout, a reservist in the 419th Fighter Wing’s medical squadron, wasn’t scared to enter a hotbed of the virus as she waited to board her flight at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

“I’m not nervous at all about going. I’m glad to go. You know, you have skills and you train for that, and you’re here to serve,” said Trout, of the Salt Lake area.

“I think probably nothing is really different than normal, as far as medical professionals. Obviously we’ll have the appropriate protective gear when we’re caring for patients. And as medical professionals, we’re always exposed to possible infections. Anybody can be infectious at any time, so hand-washing, normal things that people should’ve been doing a long time ago,” Trout explained.

She didn’t yet know what her assignment will be once she arrives.

“I’m pretty confident that whoever’s on the ground there has a plan to disperse people,” Trout said.

As for time to prepare after getting assigned, “We had less than 24 hours,” she said. “I’m ICU background, so I’m pretty sure that could be utilized out there.”

The situation isn’t an unfamiliar one. Trout says she’s been deployed multiple times, and has cared for or transported patients with infectious diseases. “And we’re trained to handle ICU-type patients, respiratory problems,” she explained.

She said she would tell those who are concerned about the group that she’s not afraid for her own health. “And I’m prepared to go help. I think the more people we have there with those high-level skills, we can help make a difference in this, hopefully.”

Likewise, Jimmy Jones, a nurse practitioner and chief nurse in his reserve unit, said he did something similar during the Hurricane Katrina relief when he was a “young nurse.”

“It’s nice to have been in long enough to be of use in this capacity,” Jones said. “And so being utilized in any way that can help not just the people of New York but anywhere in the country is quite an honor to be selected.”

While he was experiencing nerves, he said if the group takes necessary precautions, “I think we’re going to be fine.”

Nearly 31,000 Utahns have now been tested for the virus, almost 3,000 more since Saturday, according to the Utah Department of Health. The rate of those who have tested positive for the new coronavirus remains just over 5% as it has the past few weeks.

Of those Utahns with COVID-19, 124 have required hospitalization.

As on Saturday, the largest jumps in cases Sunday occurred in Salt Lake County, which confirmed 91 new cases, and Utah County, which confirmed an additional 30.

The latest breakdown of Utah COVID-19 cases by health district:

  • Salt Lake County, 742; 62 hospitalized
  • Summit County, 256; 16 hospitalized
  • Davis County, 142; 10 hospitalized
  • Utah County, 216; 13 hospitalized
  • Wasatch County, 78; 4 hospitalized
  • Weber-Morgan, 67; 3 hospitalized
  • Southwest Utah, 41; 7 hospitalized
  • Bear River, 31; 5 hospitalized
  • Tooele County, 19; 2 hospitalized
  • San Juan County, 5; 2 hospitalized
  • Central Utah, 4
  • Southeast Utah, 3
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 2

The Utah Health Department tally included five cases for Central Utah, but Central Utah health officials later discovered the fifth patient actually lives in Salt Lake County.

Kane County confirmed its second case of the new coronavirus Sunday evening.