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SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are excited to get back to their Thanksgiving traditions after two years of restrictions under the coronavirus pandemic. But, just because COVID-19 is not as prevalent, does not mean that we don’t need to take precautions.
“The last couple years, COVID was the main thing we were worried about spreading around the family get-together,” said Dr. Per Gesteland, a pediatric hospitalist at Primary Children’s Hospital and University of Utah Health.
This year there’s less worry about COVID-19, he said, but more concern about RSV and the flu. Right now, those viruses are still sending kids to the hospital.
“We’re surviving up here,” Gesteland said, referring to Primary Children’s Hospital. “We were running 95-100% capacity, and it’s definitely busy.”
We are facing a viral blizzard, he said.
Gesteland helped create high-risk 20 years ago, which shows us that RSV and the flu are on the rise today across much of the state. RSV can be especially tough on kids, the elderly, and those with high risk health conditions.
“It started in October and then has really taken off,” the doctor said. “The slope for our outbreak last year was a little bit gentler. This year it’s a very steep incline, which suggests very rapid transmission throughout our communities.”
The flu is just starting to rise in Utah, lagging behind the surge in hospitalizations seen in other states.
“We expect things to just get worse from here on for a few more weeks before we start to see a break in our influenza activity,” Gesteland said.
Meantime, COVID-19 still has more than 120 people hospitalized statewide.
On average, one person is still dying each day from complications related to COVID-19.
“COVID is still out there, and it’s still definitely causing trouble,” the doctor said.
Gatherings of healthy people should be fine this holiday, he said. If you or your kids are sick, stay home and avoid contact with vulnerable people. He advises that we wash our hands regularly and avoid close contact with anyone coughing or sneezing.
“We’ve made a lot of progress with getting people vaccinated against COVID,” Gesteland said. “So we’re all feeling a little bit better, especially vulnerable populations.”