More than 1,100 Utah health workers have contracted COVID-19

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Dr Jackie Simonis assumed she was tired of working three consecutive night shifts in a COVID-19 emergency room.

She took four days off. She went back to work. Always tired.

Simonis then had a headache and a stuffy nose. On May 3, his temperature climbed to 100.1 degrees. Simonis took a quick COVID-19 test. It came back positive.

“Honestly, I was very scared that I exposed colleagues at work the days before the onset of a fever,” said Simonis, 36. [physician] big. »

In Utah, at least 1,125 medical workers, most of them employed in long-term care facilities, have contracted the coronavirus, according to data provided by local health departments, in more than 40,000 cases of COVID-19 in total in the state. This health care figure includes doctors, nurses, janitors and clerical workers in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.

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The Salt Lake County Department of Health was the only local health agency to report that such a worker had died from the virus.

(Photo courtesy Teresa Thompson) Paul Mokofisi, of West Jordan, died at his home on June 28, 2020, after contracting COVID-19, his family said. He was 41 years old.
(Photo courtesy Teresa Thompson) Paul Mokofisi, of West Jordan, died at his home on June 28, 2020, after contracting COVID-19, his family said. He was 41 years old.

His sister found him dead in his bedroom on June 28. He was 41 years old.

Some county and regional health departments did not provide specific figures for infected medical staff, but acknowledged that there had been cases in their area.

Some health services have also said their data is limited because they do not record professional information for every COVID-19 patient, creating the likelihood that infections among medical workers are higher than the numbers show.

County health departments or health districts reporting health workers infected with COVID-19 last week:
• Salt Lake County, 772.
• Davis County, 210.
• Weber-Morgan, 113.
• San Juan County, 30 years old.
• Tooele County and the Southeast Utah Department of Health have each reported fewer than five cases.
• Southwest Utah Public Health and TriCounty Health Department both reported infected healthcare workers, but declined to provide figures.

In addition to contributing to the wider coronavirus epidemic in Utah, infections from health workers have, in places, hampered the state’s ability to care for the sick and vulnerable.

It was difficult for these centers to find work even before the pandemic, and staffing issues have only worsened in long-term care facilities where outbreaks have occurred.

Allie Spangler, director of membership at the Utah Health Care Association, said on Friday that the Utah National Guard recently had to staff at one facility, Medallion Manor in Provo.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Department of Health is preparing to test staff at the West Jordan Care Center for the coronavirus on Thursday, May 21, 2020. The tests are part of a plan to test the staff at all. long-term care facilities, with centers for memory patients and people with intellectual disabilities who are given priority.
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Department of Health is preparing to test staff at the West Jordan Care Center for the coronavirus on Thursday, May 21, 2020. The tests are part of a plan to test the staff at all. long-term care facilities, with centers for memory patients and people with intellectual disabilities who are given priority.
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Representatives from Utah’s three major hospital networks, Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health and MountainStar Healthcare, all said they haven’t yet had a staff shortage due to workers contracting the coronavirus.

Unsurprisingly, healthcare professionals were seen as essential employees. If they are exposed to the virus but do not have symptoms, they can be exempted from quarantine recommendations and report to work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Trevor Warner, spokesperson for the Davis County Health Department, who reported 210 medical workers infected, said a nationwide conversation took place early in the pandemic on how to manage critical infrastructure workers. The consensus: it would be too devastating to close a hospital.

“While it is not ideal” to have exposed – although still seemingly healthy – working medical professionals, Warner said on Friday, “it is one of those things that has been deemed necessary to keep these essential businesses open to our public.

(Zak Podmore | Tribune file photo) This March 20, 2020, a file photo shows a sign of coronavirus outside the Montezuma Creek clinic in the northern Navajo Nation.
(Zak Podmore | Tribune file photo) This March 20, 2020, a file photo shows a sign of coronavirus outside the Montezuma Creek clinic in the northern Navajo Nation.

They left Salt Lake City on March 4, when COVID-19 arrived in the Four Corners area, and remained on reservations until June 8.

“You rely not only on yourself,” she said, “but on everyone in this emergency room – the nurses, the patients, the technicians – to use their PPE properly 100% of the time. time. It is a tall order. “

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dr Jackie Simonis, left, and her husband, Dean Tanner, right, with their pets at home in the Avenues, August 1, 2020. The couple spend two weeks a month on the The Hopi and Navajo nations as emergency doctors. Simonis, who contracted COVID-19 in May, suffered from mild symptoms and, although she lived in a small apartment on the reserve, did not give the virus to her husband. Tanner has tested negative for the virus and its antibodies several times.
(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dr Jackie Simonis, left, and her husband, Dean Tanner, right, with their pets at home in the Avenues, August 1, 2020. The couple spend two weeks a month on the The Hopi and Navajo nations as emergency doctors. Simonis, who contracted COVID-19 in May, suffered from mild symptoms and, although she lived in a small apartment on the reserve, did not give the virus to her husband. Tanner has tested negative for the virus and its antibodies several times.

Simonis doubts she contracted the virus from a patient around whom she was still wearing PPE. Simonis removed the equipment to eat his meals in a break room with other hospital staff. It’s possible, she says, that she caught the virus there or while shopping.

His case turned out to be mild. She had two days of fever and about a week of headache, stiffness and stuffy nose. She never developed a cough or shortness of breath – and returned to work.

Simonis and Tanner have an apartment near their work on the Navajo Nation. When she developed symptoms, her husband went to another hospital on the Hopi reserve to work and stay to allow Simonis to isolate himself.

The next week, Simonis says, he went to a motel. He has been tested five times, she said, but has never tested positive for the virus.

“If I had to come home,” said Simonis, “like the nurses I worked with who had their children at home – how can you isolate yourself when you’re not feeling well? It seems so hard to prevent it from spreading when you can’t be alone.



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