Utah frontliners fight fatigue as COVID-19 spreads rapidly throughout state

SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday, the Department of Health reported almost 2,000 new test-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and five new deaths from the disease. That brings Utah to 155,779 total confirmed cases and 723 deaths since the pandemic began.

Of the total cases, 49,575 are considered active. Over the past week, Utah is averaging nearly 3,000 new cases per day with a positive test percentage of 24.5.

The recent surge in cases prompted Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah) to issue an executive order one week ago that includes statewide COVID-19 restrictions, including a mask mandate. His state of emergency declaration comes as hospitals and ICUs are nearing capacity.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot more COVID patients,” said Filipino American Sheena Arenas, a registered nurse at the University of Utah Hospital. “I just worked in the COVID unit last night. It was a hard shift. There were patients that were needing to go to ICU but we’re trying to push them to go to a medical floor just ’cause the ICUs are full. It’s here. It’s in Utah, and it’s scary.”

Arenas also said health care workers are working incredibly hard as they deal with the increase in cases.

“We’re definitely seeing a burnout,” she said. “Nurses are tired. We’re tired. We take care of these patients, and they’re high acuity patients taking a lot of resources. And on top of that, we have nurses or staff that are sick and out sick, and that even leaves us short, and we’re being called into work all the time. We have mandatory on-call shifts, and we just expect to come when we’re on call.”

Arenas hopes Utahns will do their part to help slow the spread of the virus.

“We really hope they follow the mandate — wearing a mask,” she said. “I know that’s a controversial issue. I know it is not a hundred percent, but it does help prevent COVID and the spread of the virus.”

The governor’s executive order will be in effect through November 23, but according to the state’s coronavirus response website, the mask mandate “will be extended for the foreseeable future.”

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