Town & County

Community Leaders Share Pandemic Successes and Shortfalls as Winter Approaches

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah. — Local community leaders and businesses gathered virtually on Monday, Dec. 6 to hold a conversation on Wintering the Pandemic. The event provided updates on vaccination plans, educated residents about ongoing protocols at local businesses and ski resorts, and gave panelists a chance to share how decisions are being made.

More than 400 participants and viewers logged in by Zoom, according to Derek Siddoway, Summit County Communication & Public Engagement Director, and many more tuned in through the live broadcast on PCTV and KPCW radio. The discussion included success stories from local art galleries, a review of the booming real estate economy, and applause for contact tracing efforts. The sad realities of the pandemic, including rising domestic violence and mental health crises, were mentioned as well.

On the list of successes, Health Department Director Rich Bullough spoke about schools being one of the safest places for children.

“As I’ve looked at the data there’s relatively little spread from student to student in those environments,” Bullough said. “I applaud the schools. It has a lot to do with their contact tracing.”

Further applause went out to the distribution of CARES funds and the county-wide mask mandate in place since June. As for concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in Utah and nationwide, Bullough advised listeners that the virus is everywhere and people should not only assume they have it, but that the person next to them  also has it. He mentioned that vaccination plans are in progress and he expect that process to begin in April or May of 2021.

Utah’s ICU beds are currently at 91 percent capacity, according to December 7th data on the Summit County Health Department’s Covid-19 dashboard. During the panel, Lori Weston, CEO and Administrator at Intermountain Park City Hospital, said the hospital has four beds in its ICU and clarified that while beds are a concern, they aren’t necessarily a “limiting factor” in patient care.

“Staff is our limiting factor in all of our hospitals. If you don’t have staff, you can’t take care of patients,” Weston said. “We are able to flex patients based on their needs, we are able to treat non-Covid and Covid patients,” Weston added. “We triage when patients come in and decide ‘where is the best place for them right now?’”

Since Park City Hospital is part of the Intermountain Healthcare system, flexing patients means that if space runs out here, a bed will be found at a surrounding hospital within the Intermountain network. Park City Hospital also has plans to extend beds into other departments if necessary. Weston also mentioned triaging: if a patient comes in with acute Covid conditions, the hospital will decide whether they should be sent to one of the Level 1 trauma hospitals in Salt Lake City.

Questions from the public were submitted before the event and throughout the evening. One expressed concern about how ski resorts will mitigate a pandemic response on the mountain. Mike Gore, Vice President and COO at Park City Mountain, weighed in about new protocols for the 2020-21 ski season such as limiting group gatherings and the number of people who visit, enforcing face coverings and encouraging social distancing.

“The list of protocols is really quite extraordinary,” Gore said. “…at the end of the day, [Covid protocols are] successful because everyone is taking the opportunity to be a part of the solution.”

Governor Gary Herbert issued a statement Monday reminding Utans that the statewide mask mandate is still in effect, urging them to “Spread joy, not Covid. Wear a mask” this holiday season. Summit County’s current classification on the statewide Covid-19 Transmission Index remains at the “high” level. ICU capacity and 14-day case rates are two main factors that determine where a county sits on the index.

Access Monday night’s panel recording here and follow the Summit County Health Department on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and timely communications.



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