St. George hospital moves beyond capacity as COVID-19 resurgence continues nationwide

ST. GEORGE — St. George Regional Hospital has had days in the past week where it had more admitted patients than it has available beds as Southern Utah, the state and the nation continues to see a resurgence of COVID-19 – chiefly among those who are not vaccinated. 

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

While hospital officials note the above capacity designation includes patients who had put off care during the pandemic, they say the biggest factor is the continuing rise in COVID-19 patients. This week the rise hit levels not seen since January. At that time, the  COVID-19 vaccine was first being distributed. 

St. George Regional Hospital Administrator Mitch Cloward told the Ivins City Council Thursday evening that at that time there were 300 patients in the 284-bed hospital including “about 38 very sick patients with COVID.” And according to Utah Department of Health, the hospital has regularly exceeded 40 COVID-19 patients in the past week.

At this point, all of Southern Utah’s COVID-19 patients in all five counties are being housed in the St. George hospital. 

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that from July 2 to 8 – the most recent stats available – Southern Utah had the second-largest concentration of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state trailing only Uintah County. 

During the Thursday taping of the PBS Utah Monthly Governor’s Press Conference program, Gov. Spencer Cox told St. George News that a big reason for the increasing hospitalization rates in Southern Utah are not enough people being vaccinated. 

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a July 15, 2021, taping of the PBS Utah “Governor’s Monthly News Conference” program. Salt Lake City, Utah | Photo courtesy of PBS Utah

“We’ve seen in Washington County, in Iron County, the vaccination rates have been a little lower and that’s leading to the higher hospitalization rates,” Cox said. “The lack of urgency I think, is this feeling that this has gone and ‘I don’t have to worry about it.’ What I’m hoping is that the outreach that will happen in those local areas. And certainly we’re talking to our local health districts (that) constantly have to tell the stories … from real people that have decided not to get vaccinated in your neck of the woods and are now wishing they had.”

David Heaton, spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, told St. George News “around 40%” of Southern Utah residents are fully vaccinated, though he added “most of our seniors and vulnerable population have been vaccinated.” 

According to the Utah Department of Health, there were 64 new COVID-19 infections in Southern Utah Friday, the most in one day since Feb. 26 with 869 people presently tested positive for COVID-19 in the five-county area.

Utah is not alone in the COVID-19 resurgence. This week has seen a large nationwide increase in the COVID-19 rate and hospitalizations according to the Centers of Disease Control, with the largest increases being seen in Florida, Nevada, Arkansas and Missouri. “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House press conference. 

Map shows what parts of Utah are seeing a higher percentage of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 from July 2 to 8, 2021 | Chart courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/University of Minnesota, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Just across the Utah border in Mesquite and Clark County, Nevada, the Southern Nevada Health District on Friday issued a recommendation, though not a requirement, that masks be worn by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in indoor settings. A six-hour-drive away, Los Angeles County has gone even further, making masks mandatory again as of Saturday. 

On Thursday, Cox expressed that he had little desire to bring back mask requirements in Utah, especially with both legislative and local leaders in the state adamantly opposed to any return to the kind of emergency orders and restrictions seen during the worst of the pandemic. Cox said the discussion on additional measures to quell the COVID-19 resurgence has already happened.

“The discussion is we know what to do and it’s to keep getting people vaccinated.”

Those who have had COVID-19 advised to also get vaccine

St. George News has learned some local officials have expressed confusion about whether those who have already had COVID-19 should get the vaccine. 

A young recipient received the COVID-19 vaccine at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s Cedar City office on May 17, 2021. Cedar City, Utah | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

During Wednesday’s Springdale Town Council meeting, Mayor Stan Smith said he was told by Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department , that those who have had COVID-19 do not need to get the vaccine. Town Council member Suzanne Elger chimed in that CDC guidance is that those who have had the virus still need to be vaccinated to be protected, as there have been cases of people who have already had COVID-19 getting it again. 

That sentiment was echoed Friday by Charla Haley, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health who told St. George News that studies have shown the natural protection from having the virus lasts around 90 days unlike studies that show that the vaccines at this point offer years of protection. 

“If it has been less than 90 days since you tested positive, you may be okay if you choose to wait to get vaccinated until it has been more than 90 days since you tested positive,” Haley said. 

Heaton said that is also the message from the Southwest Utah Public Health District. 

“I’m not aware of a recommendation not to get vaccinated if previously infected,” Heaton said. “We’ve been encouraging people to follow the CDC guidance to get vaccinated even if you’ve had COVID-19.”

A letter published in the British medical journal The Lancet in March discussed an experiment in which 51 healthcare workers in London were given a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Half of the healthcare workers had previously recovered from Covid-19 and it was they who experienced the greatest boost in antibodies — more than 140-fold from peak pre-vaccine levels — against the virus’s spike protein.

Professor Mahdad Noursadeghi of the University College of London Division of Infection & Immunity said, “Prior infections in this group date back to the beginning of the epidemic in London. The fact that a vaccine dose almost a year later has such a boosting effect, highlights the longevity of immune memory to this infection and increases our confidence that booster vaccines at intervals may be an effective way to may maintain high levels of immunity in the future.”

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.
  • 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.
  • To receive a free ride to and from a vaccine appointment through Lyft, call 211.

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: Walk-ins available. Otherwise, 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: Walk-ins available. Otherwise, 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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