Utah hospitals have been treating COVID-19 patients for over four months now, and while doctors are finding success with some treatments, they are still concerned about a recent surge in cases.

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Caption: KUTV: Jeremy Harris reports{{ }}

The Utah Department of Health reports that 197 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in the state. Of those, 94 are in the intensive care unit.

Hospitalizations represent 6.3% of current known COVID-19 cases, according to health department data. 

“That number is relatively stable, thankfully, for now,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare.

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Stenehjem adds that as doctors learn more about COVID-19, they are getting better at offering treatments.

He says doctors are using the drug Remdesivir on hospitalized patients, as well as steroid treatments and convalescent plasma – a treatment where COVID-19 patients are given blood plasma from recovered patients.

“Those are three proven therapies that we hope are effective just like they were in the randomized control trials,” Stenehjem said.

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But he is quick to sound a warning that advancements in treatment are not equal to a vaccine, and prevention is absolutely crucial at this stage of the pandemic.

“Now is the time for us to drive cases down, get it under control,” Stenehjem said.

He says that means people need to continue to keep social distance and wear masks in public.

“More and more data is coming out to show the effectiveness of wearing masks,” he said.

Wednesday, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson called again on Governor Gary Herbert to issue a state-wide mask mandate after the county saw a dip in COVID-19 cases. 

“Wearing masks slows the spread of COVID-19. We now have evidence of that here in Salt Lake County,” Wilson said.

The County implemented a face-covering requirement in late June. 

“These actions are saving lives, protecting health, and stabilizing the spread of COVID-19 cases here in Salt Lake County. Accordingly, we are seeing economic relief from these actions as well,” Wilson said.

This week, a team at Brigham Young University released a study about the effectiveness of face masks in preventing COVID-19 spread. 

Stenehjem, the Intermountain Healthcare infectious disease physician, says he doubts there will be a good vaccine for COVID-19 until the second quarter of next year. He says for the time being, the focus needs to be on preventing transmission of the virus.

“We have to be just as focused as we ever have been,” he said. “If you walk through our ICUs and you talk to our patients who have COVID-19 — in the hospital, alone, suffering, some of the dying, they don’t have next to them, their families are home wondering what’s happening to them. You ask them if this is a big deal? It’s a huge deal.”

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