COVID-19 hospitalizations in Southern Utah at second-highest point of entire pandemic

ST. GEORGE — The Utah Department of Health reported Friday that Southern Utah reached the second-highest number of local residents hospitalized for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic – more than at any time in 2020.

Stock image | Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

According to Friday’s data from the health department, there are 72 residents of Southern Utah hospitalized for COVID-19. The only day higher was 75 on Jan. 5 at a time when only medical personnel and first responders were eligible for the vaccine in Utah. 

According to Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director of St. George Regional Hospital, as of Monday morning the hospital had 73 COVID-19 patients in the 284-bed facility. In the 32-bed intensive care unit, 31 had COVID-19. As a result, most elective surgeries are now being cancelled.

“We’re not terribly surprised we’re in this situation, but it’s sad we are in this situation,” Carroll told St. George News. “But we can get out of it.”

The ICU has now been beyond capacity for 10 days. Earlier this week, Carroll said he went through the 29 COVID-19 patients in the ICU at the time. All 29 were unvaccinated. 

“They were 100% unvaccinated,” Carroll said. “100% of the COVID patients on a ventilator were unvaccinated. We have enough COVID patients to fill the entire ICU.”

Carroll said the hospital’s ICU COVID patients are continuing to be younger.

“Today’s list in the ICU, I see more in their 30s and 40s than I’ve seen before. And we’re seeing more pregnant COVID patients,” Carroll said. 

St. George Regional Hospital seen on March 13, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Medical experts have said it is a false rumor that pregnant women should not take the COVID-19 vaccine. In a recent statement, 22 national pediatric organizations recommended that pregnant women receive the vaccine. 

Carroll said they are seeing more breakthrough COVID-19 patients who are vaccinated, but they are still a small part of the COVID-19 patients in the hospital. And the hospital as a whole is not seeing vaccinated patients in the ICU or among the deceased. 

“We’re seeing very clearly that the vaccine works,” Carroll said, adding that a majority of people in Southern Utah are still unvaccinated. While a third booster shot is gaining momentum for those who have had Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Carroll said the effort in Southern Utah should be on getting more people their first dose to reduce the burden on the hospital. 

According to the Utah Department of Health, as of Friday, 55.7% of Southern Utah residents were not fully vaccinated. 

File photo of an ambulance arriving at Cedar City Hospital, Cedar City, Utah , March 28, 2021| Photo by Jeff Richards, Cedar City News/St. George News

The Hurricane/LaVerkin area has now moved behind Cedar City as far as residents who are vaccinated, with 62.7% unvaccinated. Along with Cedar City (61% unvaccinated), Washington City (56.2%) is also behind. In St. George, 51.7% of residents are unvaccinated.

The Ivins/Santa Clara area remains the only area of Southern Utah where a majority of residents have had at least one vaccine shot (51.2%, with 46.2% fully vaccinated).

Cedar City Hospital has also been taking in COVID-19 patients, though any requiring an ICU are staying in St. George. As of Monday, the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 20% of the patients in Cedar City are being treated for COVID-19.

Hospital will not turn away emergency patients

As far as patients needing emergency care, Carroll said there is not a scenario at this point where the hospital will turn away patients even as it is getting increasingly difficult to find a place for them. 

File photo of Dr. Patrick Carroll, St. George Regional Hospital medical director, Hurricane, Utah, June 16, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Carroll said part of the reason is St. George Regional is part of a robust Intermountain Healthcare group that also includes the hospitals in Cedar City and Panguitch, as well as Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Each day at each hospital, staff are constantly polling the other facilities to see who has a bed to spare. 

Dr. Brandon Webb, one of the leading infectious diseases physicians with Intermountain Healthcare, echoed that in a Zoom call with reporters Friday.

“We don’t expect to be in a position where we turn people away,” Webb said. “If we don’t have room here, we can transport to you to another hospital. We have fluid and streamlined ways to transfer patients.”

At the same time, Webb acknowledges the toll it has been on hospital staff with a pandemic that seemed to be nearly in the rearview mirror before the summer started and from a hospital perspective is as bad now as it has ever been.

“A lot of our health care professionals are tired of being heroes,” Webb said. “They’re just tired.”

Effect of return to school still to come

Also not helping morale is the fact that because of the gestation period of the virus and its spread, the effect of the return to school on hospitals is still to come.  

“I’m not yet convinced that the increase now is directly related to schools,” Carroll said. 

“We are seeing a lot of kids being hospitalized, but it’s still a relatively low rate compared to other age groups,” he explained. “But kids can spread to their parents and we’ve not seen the impact of that yet.”

And in another sign that the average age of the infected is going down, for the first time on Friday, the Utah Department of Health said that among new infections among school-age children, the largest number of new infections were among those ages 5 to 10.

Limits on elective surgeries

St. George Regional Hospital has now put limits on elective surgeries. Elective surgeries range from knee replacements, to spinal surgery, to some angioplasties and cancer surgeries.

Carroll said the hospital will not do any elective surgeries right now that require an ICU bed for recovery. Any other elective surgeries are being limited on a case-by-case basis.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 12 and over. Those 12-18 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Use to find clinics that have the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Those who can receive a booster dose: Those who received Pfizer or Moderna previously and are immunocompromised.
  • The Southwest Utah Public Health Department and most pharmacies and stores are offering walk-up appointments.
  • Must wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment and should have a personal ID.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S. 400 East, St George

For hours and more information: Click here 

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, 84721.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St., Panguitch.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver.

For hours and more information: Click here 

St. George Regional Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare:

Where: 400 East Campus St. George Regional Hospital,  544 S. 400 East, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register

FourPoints Health:

Where: Various locations.

For hours and more information:: Click here

Revere Health:

Where: Revere Health Campus,  2825 E. Mall Drive, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 745 N Dixie Dr in St. George and 915 Red Cliffs Dr. in Washington City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 1189 E. 700 South in St. George and 3520 Pioneer Parkway in Santa Clara.

Reservations: Click to register

Lin’s Marketpace:

Where: 1930 W. Sunset Blvd.  and 2928 E. Mall Drive in St. George, 1120 State St. in Hurricane and 150 N Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 275 S River Rd. in St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 2610 Pioneer Rd. in St. George, 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City, 180 N. 3400 West in Hurricane and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Family pharmacies:

Where: Several locations

Reservations: Use to find a location near you

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.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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