SWEETWATER COUNTY — Sweetwater County Public Health is reporting COVID-19 numbers are starting to increase across Wyoming, including Sweetwater County, as the Omicron variant makes its way into the state.
Sweetwater County Public Health released another COVID-19 update this week. As always, we’ve reviewed everything and are passing on new information.
Here’s what’s new.
COVID-19 numbers are again rising across Wyoming, including Sweetwater County. The CDC COVID-19 Nowcast model estimates Omicron has become the predominate strain at 77.8-99.6 percent of new cases for Region 8 (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming).
Omicron can cause breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people. Evidence shows that fully vaccinated and boosted can help prevent infection. If you do have a break though infection, the vaccine does reduce severe illness and hospitalizations.
As of January 5 Sweetwater County is at 7.2 percent 14-day rolling average positivity rate, up from 4.5 percent. Overall, Sweetwater County is back in the “orange zone” with moderate-high transmission levels. There are 107 confirmed deaths to date. Currently, Sweetwater County has 109 active cases.
Although Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County (MHSC) is caring for an average of four COVID-19 positive inpatients daily, it has had a total of up to 18 inpatients in house daily. The Emergency Room is averaging 40 visits per day.
This continues amid staff shortages. MHSC is no different than other hospitals across the region and nation. When members of our healthcare staff are out with COVID-19, flu or other respiratory illnesses, it puts even greater stress on our already limited staff.
At this time, MHSC has stalled elective surgical cases that require an overnight stay. Hospital leaders will continue to monitor elective surgeries on a week-by-week basis.
Kim White, MHSC incident commander and emergency department director, said the hospital has been fortunate in that there hasn’t been a sudden surge as some hospitals have seen. White said staff hopes this continues as the Omicron variant, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses move in and pick up in the community.
Regionwide: Some air ambulance crews around the state and region have reported not being able to fly as a result of weather conditions. University of Utah Health has limited its incoming transfers to critical care patients. It also is delaying all non-urgent surgeries.
In an “unprecedented move,” U of U Health has reduced the number of beds it offers as a result of having hundreds of staff out sick. During a U of U Health Affiliate meeting Wednesday, hospital leaders explained: U of U Health took 52 beds offline – 12 in ICU and 40 on the medical/surgical floor. The regional hospital has been at 100% capacity with at least 500 staff out sick with COVID-19 or isolating.
“We won’t be staffing for those beds … until we have the staffing,” said Dr. Edward Kimball, who works in critical care at University of Utah Health. Typically, a hospital adjusts staffing based on capacity. U of U Health is now adjusting capacity based on staffing.
“This is an unprecedented move,” he said.
The weekly U of U Health Affiliate meeting includes hospitals in Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, representing nearly 20 hospitals. Some small rural hospitals have reported “hanging on by the skin of our teeth.” A 25-bed hospital reported having 50 staff members out sick.
Vaccine Clinic Changes: MHSC continues to offer its vaccine & booster drive-thru from 3-6 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday through the end of January. Beginning Feb. 1, the COVID-19 Vaccine Drive-thru will be open from 3-6 p.m. on Tuesdays only.
Swab Clinic: The swab clinic drive-thru continues to be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the hospital’s main entrance.