Mar 11, 2022 10:00 AM
In March, we observe the two-year anniversary of providing care to COVID-19 patients at University of Utah Health. Similar to the year prior, 2021 was unprecedented and marked with uncertainty over new emerging virus variants. Utah saw the number of daily positive infections and hospitalizations reach levels it has never seen before.
1,690 positive COVID-19 cases (highest 7-day average)
580 hospitalizations (highest 7-day average)
10,600 positive COVID-19 cases (highest 7-day average)
830 hospitalizations (highest 7-day average)
Much of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic focused around new virus variants. In the last year, at least fourprominent COVID-19 variants were identified. While the Brazil and South Africa variants did not have a direct impact on Utah, the Delta variant caused more severe disease and steadily drove up daily positive cases and ICU admissions at U of U Health.
During the peak of Delta (mid-September 2021), U of U Health saw:
- 73 daily positive COVID-19 infections
- 79 patients hospitalized for COVID-19
In December 2021, Omicron became the next predominant variant in the U.S. and quickly made its way to Utah for another surge. Omicron, identified as more transmissible and contagious than Delta, once again put a strain on health care systems across the country and caused a heightened demand for COVID-19 testing. Because of this, U of U Health saw more hospitalizations than with any other previous variant. However, ICU admissions were less than half during the Delta surge due to Omicron causing much less severe disease.
During the peak of Omicron (mid-January 2022), U of U Health saw:
- 448 daily positive COVID-19 infections
- 141 patients hospitalized for COVID-19
During both surges, COVID-19 vaccines helped prevent infection, hospitalization, and death. Though less effective at preventing infection (and breakthrough infection), the vaccines have been extremely effective in preventing hospitalization and death.
Several major milestones were achieved over the last year with COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines became available for children ages 5 years and older, and full licensure was granted to both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, COVID-19 booster vaccines were authorized for anyone ages 12 and older to further protect them from severe disease and hospitalization.
At U of U Health, COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots were administered at all community health centers. In the last year, U of U Health administered at least 150,370 COVID-19 vaccinations, including:
- 9,400 children (5 to 17 years)
- 25,900 booster shots
Since receiving COVD-19 vaccines at U of U Health, nearly 190,300 total vaccinations have been administered.
More potential relief for SARS-CoV-2 infection became available to patients at U of U Health over the last year. While not as effective as COVID-19 vaccines, these COVID-19 treatments help reduce a person’s risk of becoming sicker and help those who may be more vulnerable to severe disease from the virus. Current COVID-19 treatments include:
- Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies for certain individuals in Utah. However, only one monoclonal antibody therapy (sotrovimab) effectively works against the Omicron variant.
- Paxlovid is the first COVID-19 antiviral pill available by prescription for people ages 12 years and older.
- Remdesivir, an antiviral infusion, is given in an outpatient setting.
- Evusheld, a pre-exposure prophylaxis monoclonal antibody, was authorized by the FDA in late 2021 for certain individuals.
U of U Health saw a demand for COVID-19 testing during the Delta and Omicron surges. At the peak of Delta, the health system tested about 250 patients a day in early September. However, during the Omicron surge, COVID-19 testing at U of U Health exceeded its testing capacity because of how contagious and transmissible Omicron became. At the peak of Omicron, test volumes reached more than 350 a day in mid-January.
At U of U Health:
- More than 65,500 COVID-19 tests were collected in the last year (March 2021 – February 2022).
- Nearly 167,600 COVID-19 tests have been collected since testing began in March 2020.
Testing for SARS-CoV-2 is now more convenient than ever for patients at U of U Health with self-serve COVID-19 testing. In early 2022, U of U Health transformed COVID-19 testing by providing self-serve kiosks at seven community health centers just in time for the Omicron surge. These outdoor, temperature-controlled kiosks offer kits for saliva PCR or nasal swab PCR.
The University of Utah campus helped shape and unfold a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 over the last year. The research response to COVID-19 has been life-changing and continues to be recognized on a global scale. To date, the research response to COVID-19 involves:
- 400+ research projects
- $1.3 million in U seed funding
- $61 million in external funding
- 643 publications
- 9,5000+ citations
Some U of U Health research projects includes:
Campus, Community, and State Partnerships
- Study results from Utah’s HERO Project helped implement “Test to play, test to stay” at Utah schools to help keep them open and safe. The program was implemented by the Utah Department of Health and local health departments to help students participate in extracurricular activities and stay in school while reducing the spread of COVID-19.
- In May 2021, the Wellness Bus and Nursing Community Services partnered to provide free COVID-19 vaccination clinics. This comes on the heels of the Wellness Bus testing nearly 15,000 Utahns in 2020. The Wellness Bus has become a trusted resource for Utah’s underserved communities through the pandemic.
- U of U Health opened its doors in July 2021 to offer possible relief to those suffering from lingering side effects of COVID-19 infection. Since then, the COVID-19 Long-Hauler Clinic has provided comprehensive care for more than 600 patients, working with physicians and practitioners in at least 10 specialties.
- In March 2022, 20 highly trained military personnel from the U.S. Navy began a 30-day deployment at the University of Utah Hospital to support staff and patients in an initial recovery response to help bolster staffing. The team was assigned to work in acute care areas, alongside U of U Health clinical staff, focusing on direct patient care needs.