While Southern Utah finally sees COVID delta surge wane, hospitals aren’t getting a break

The outside of St. George Regional Hospital seen as as a sustained rain falls on the St. George area, St. George, Utah, Oct. 8, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — This week, Southern Utah joined the waning of the delta variant surge of COVID-19 infections that the rest of the state has seen for the last two weeks.

Nurse works with a COVID-19 patient at Intermountain Hospital, Murray, Utah, October 2021 | Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

But that might be a small consolation for the doctors, nurses and other staff at St. George Regional Hospital, where there has been no discernable letup in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19.

Speaking before the Washington County Commission on Tuesday, Dr. Patrick Carroll, St. George Regional Hospital’s chief doctor, said out of 284 beds at the hospital 280 were filled. In the intensive care unit, which usually has 32 beds, 34 beds were filled, with 32 of the ICU patients having COVID. 

“That means even if it was just COVID patients, the ICU would be filled,” Carroll said. “We’ve never seen anything like that.”

That has left the hospital not only scrambling for beds for COVID patients, but for patients in general. Carroll said in one case this week, it took three days to find a bed for a patient that had organ failure. 

That left Carroll to make an ominous warning to the county’s residents: This is not the time to be a daredevil. 

“Our hospital is full. Please be careful about any risky behaviors,” Carroll said. “It will remain full and we don’t see an end in sight. This isn’t something that is a theoretical possibility. This is something actually happening.”

From left, Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson speaks with St. George Regional Hospital Administrator Mitch Cloward and Medical Director Dr. Patrick Carroll following a tour of the hospital’s COVID-19 wards, St. George, Utah, Sept. 3, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

For a little over a month now, the hospital has put all surgeries that are not life threatening on hold. And that isn’t just people getting what some would call non-urgent surgeries.

Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare, said Friday there just isn’t room at any of Intermountain’s hospitals in Utah, which he said are all at or above capacity – especially in the ICU.  

“Heart surgeries need ICU beds after surgeries and because of the capacity issues, we don’t have the room to provide that,” Stenehjem said. “These may not be non-emergency surgeries … but people need these surgeries, but we can’t offer that right now.”

Both Carroll and other doctors in Utah continue to say that at least nine out of every 10 patients hospitalized for COVID is unvaccinated. A majority of Southern Utahns, 57.2%, remain unvaccinated. 

Carroll also said that while the toll of more than a year of COVID-19 pandemic care has caused many nurses and hospital staff to leave the profession, a lack of staffing is not the reason for the capacity issues at St. George Regional.

“We are short nurses not because there aren’t enough nurses, it’s because our hospital census has been higher than it has ever been,” Carroll said. “In any other year, the amount of nurses we have now would have been more than a sufficient amount of nurses.”

Nurse works with a COVID-19 patient at Intermountain Hospital, Murray, Utah, October 2021 | Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

While those who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 has left a part of the population more resistant to getting the worst effects of COVID-19, the delta variant continues to be much more contagious than the variant around at this time a year ago to those who are unvaccinated, Stenehjem said. And it is also much more likely to land the unvaccinated in the hospital or lose their life.

Even those not landing in the hospital are spending weeks at home on oxygen tanks barely able to get out of bed. 

Because the unvaccinated are getting sicker, even though new infections are down more than 15% in the last week in Southern Utah according to the Utah Department of Health, Stenehjem said he doesn’t expect the situation at the hospital to get any better – even if the general population doesn’t necessarily see the urgency within the hospital’s walls. 

“We’ll continue to see this level of occupancy for the next couple of weeks,” Stenehjem said. “We’re still in the thick of it.”

St. George News reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this story.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Friday, according to Utah Department of Health)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 39,035 (7-day average of 105.57 per day, down 15.8% in last week)

Active cases: 2,414 (falling)

  • Washington County (High in Transmission Index): 598.12 per 100K rate in 14 days, falling since Sept. 23
  • Iron County (High): 948.23, falling
  • Kane County (High): 481.87, falling
  • Garfield County (High): 1,128.49 rising
  • Beaver County (High): 581.22 rising

Hospitalized: 67 (steady)

Deaths: 369 (18 since Sept. 23)

New infections per day in Southern Utah:

  • Friday (Oct. 1): 150
  • Saturday (Oct. 2): 145
  • Sunday (Oct. 3): 88
  • Monday (Oct. 4): 58
  • Tuesday (Oct. 5): 83
  • Wednesday (Oct. 6): 127
  • Thursday (Oct. 7): 107
  • Friday (Oct. 8): 131

Current Utah seven-day average: 1,424 (steady)

Fully vaccinated in  Southern Utah: 107,847 (42.8% fully vaccinated, +1.2% since Sept. 23)

  • St. George: 46.65% fully vaccinated (+1.25%) 
  • Cedar City: 37.84% (+1.49%)
  • Washington City: 42.81% (+1.24%)
  • Ivins/Santa Clara: 49.23% (+0.79%)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 36.11% (+1.09%)
  • Enterprise/Veyo/Springdale/Hildale: 41.62% (+1.03%)
  • Beaver/Garfield/Kane counties: 41.04% (+1.17%)

Southern Utah schools active COVID-19 infections (as of Friday, according to Utah Department of Health)

NOTE: Utah Department of Health currently providing only ranges of the number of infections in each district, rather than exact figures. Figures may be an overall undercount as not all infections among students are reported to the state.

    • Washington County School District: 36 to 108 (falling since Sept. 23)
    • Iron County School District: 18 to 57 (falling)
    • Kane County School District: 1-4 (falling)
    • Garfield County School District: 4-16 (rising)
    • Beaver County School District: 3-12 (rising)
    • Southwest Utah Charter Schools: 11-20 (rising)
    • Southwest Utah Private Schools: 0 (falling)

Schools in yellow (In danger of moving to test-to-stay): None
Schools in red (Students/staff must test negative to attend): None
Top 5 schools: Gateway Preparatory Academy (Southwest Utah Charter) 8 active infections, Dixie High (Washington) 6, Crimson Cliffs High (Washington) 6, Iron Springs School (Iron) 5, several others with 1-4 infections.

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 vaccinefinder.org 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: Call (435) 673-6131 to determine if vaccine is available.


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 vaccinefinder.org 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, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!