Dixie Regional Medical Center briefly reaches full capacity, Southern Utah hits 100th COVID-19 death

ST. GEORGE — Between late Friday and early Tuesday, Dixie Regional Medical Center reached full capacity, according to the hospital’s medical director. Because of that, non-emergency surgeries have all been postponed for the next week and will be reevaluated from there on a day-by-day basis. 

A view above Dixie Regional Medical Center on Feb. 13, 2020 in St. George, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed

It comes as Southern Utah on Tuesday reached 100 people who have died of the coronavirus.

In addition, because of a continuing large influx of COVID-19 patients into the intensive care unit, which has already been operating beyond capacity, the hospital is nearing the point where it will go into a “crisis care” mode where patients will have their care triaged based on severity. 

“That will be where we’re simply doing the bare minimum to take care of patients,” Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director of Dixie Regional Medical Center, said Tuesday. 

A video provided by Intermountain Healthcare showing what is happening inside Dixie Regional Medical Center is provided at the start of the article.

The hospital has 284 beds listed as its capacity. The ICU capacity had been listed as 32, but has since been expanded into a different wing of the hospital as a “surge ICU.” 

A nurse in COVID-19 protective gear enters one of the rooms in the intensive care unit inside Dixie Regional Medical Center. December 2020, St. George, Utah. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

Carroll said the ICU has been regularly running around 150% capacity in the last few days. He added if the ICU goes above 200% capacity, the hospital will switch to crisis mode. 

Carroll said the ICU actually went down in population on Tuesday, but it wasn’t because of people being discharged.

“The census decreased because we had additional deaths,” Carroll said.

According to the Utah Department of Health, both of those listed as dying Tuesday were both hospitalized Washington County residents, and both were between 25 to 44 years of age

Those two deaths reached the grim milestone of 100 people in Southern Utah who have died from the virus since the first COVID-19 death in March. 

In crisis mode, which is the same standard of care used if a major disaster were to strike the Southern Utah area, there would be a triage form of care given throughout the hospital, but especially for critically ill patients and those in the ICU. Doctors and nurses will need to decide which patient has the most likely chance for survival and treat that patient over the other one.  

Crisis mode at Dixie Regional will likely include the first use of the BLU-MED tent outside the hospital that was erected in March.

Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director of Dixie Regional Medical Center, provides a tour inside the BLU-MED tent at the hospital. December 2020, St. George, Utah. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

In a new video provided by the parent of the soon-to-be St. George Regional Hospital, Carroll provided a tour of the inside of the BLU-MED tent that includes temporary beds and equipment in a triage mode. 

The hospital also recently provided tours for several local politicians, including local state representatives and members of the Washington and Iron county commissions so they could get a good look at what is really taking place inside the hospital.

The video also features footage inside the hospital itself, including the ICU. Carroll is quick to point out that unlike TV dramas, even in crisis care you won’t see doctors and nurses running around haphazardly.

At the very least, it may be extremely busy, but it’s an organized busy.

“It doesn’t mean the hospital isn’t busy just because you don’t see chaos,” Carroll said. “Hospitals don’t operate in chaos.”

Carroll once again made a plea for the public’s help, including continuing to wear masks and practice physical distancing. Carroll also gave praise for those that did limit Thanksgiving festivities to those within their household and said for the hospital’s sake, people will need to do the same for Christmas and the other holidays of December.

“It would be helpful to us for people to do the things that help stop the spread of the disease,” Carroll said. “If we can limit the interactions with those outside our household, that will limit the spread of COVID.”

A hall of the intensive care unit inside Dixie Regional Medical Center. December 2020, St. George, Utah. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

In the video, Dixie Regional Medical Center Valeska Guerra addresses those who continue to reject calls to help in preventing COVID-19, especially in regard to mask-wearing.

“Sometimes, we feel like everybody is out to control us and tell us what to do,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt anything to wear a cloth on your face. I’m personally wearing it all day every day and it has helped me or we would all be sick.”

Meanwhile, nurses like ICU nurse Avery Broadbent will continue working extra 10-hour shifts, where she says she’s seeing patients die every day.

We’ve had several couples come into the hospital and most of the time, only one comes out,” Broadbent said. “It’s awful because people have the power to prevent all of that. It’s all preventable. All of it.”

Cedar City seeing large COVID-19 surge

Cedar City set a new one-day high for new infections on Tuesday and is now nearing the same number of new infections per day as St. George, despite having less than half the population. 

There were 122 new infections recorded on Tuesday in Cedar City compared to 137 in St. George, according to the Utah Department of Health data. 

The city-by-city data is usually a day ahead of the overall Southern Utah and county-by-county numbers. On a day when the first impact from Thanksgiving infections were expected to show up in the numbers, Southern Utah saw 219 new infections on Tuesday according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. That didn’t make the top 10 days with the most new infections but was still high compared to the daily rate a few weeks ago.

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Dec. 8, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 14,138 (278.4 new infections per day in seven days, rising since Dec. 5)

  • Washington County: 11,141 (204.4 per day, rising)
  • Iron County: 2,308 (59 per day, rising)
  • Kane County: 234 (7.4 per day, rising)
  • Garfield County: 253 (1.9 per day, rising)
  • Beaver County: 202 (5.7 per day, rising)

New infections for major Southern Utah cities (numbers released ahead of Southern Utah numbers):

  • St. George: 137 (rising)
  • Washington City: 39 (steady)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 39 (rising)
  • Ivins City/Santa Clara: 23 (falling)
  • Cedar City: 122 (rising)

Deaths: 100 (1 per day, rising)

  • Washington County: 85 (4 new since last report: Hospitalized male 25-44, hospitalized female 25-44, hospitalized female 65-84, male long-term care resident 65-84) 
  • Iron County: 6 
  • Garfield County: 6
  • Kane County: 1
  • Beaver County: 2

Hospitalized: 51 (rising)

Active cases: 4,401 (falling)

Recovered: 9,637

Current Utah seven-day average: 3,101 (rising)

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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