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Utah hospitals not equipped for surge in COVID-19 cases, analysis says

As health officials warn that Utah hospitals could be overwhelmed if the rate of COVID-19 infections in the state continues climbing, an analysis of health data shows that Utah may be among the states least equipped to handle a surge in coronavirus cases.

The analysis, which was done by the company QuoteWizard, looked at Kaiser Family Foundation data on hospital beds and the number of physicians per 1,000 people for each state, as well as Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data on the percentage of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

“The health care system’s capacity to handle COVID-19 is dependent on how many people have access to critical health care components like hospital beds, nurses, doctors and equipment like ventilators,” Adam Johnson of QuoteWizard wrote on July 14. “The analysis is intended to show where cases are spiking; there’s a correlation between hospital capacity and how prepared states’ hospital systems were before the pandemic.”

Analysts ranked states based on four criteria: physicians per 1,000 people, hospital beds per 1,000 people, percentage of COVID-19 cases occupying beds and growth in the state’s seven-day rolling average between June and July.

Based on all four categories, the analysts ranked Utah as the state “considered (the) least prepared for hospital capacity.”

The surrounding states of Idaho, Nevada and Arizona filled the other top three spots of states least equipped for a surge in COVID-19 cases, followed by Hawaii, Colorado and Texas. West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Missouri and Ohio were ranked as the states most equipped to deal with a surge in cases.

According to the analysis of Kaiser Family Foundation data, Utah has 2.11 physicians per thousand people, which is below the nationwide average of 2.96. Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming are the only states with lower ratios of physicians to people, while Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York have the most physicians per 1,000 people.

Utah has the third lowest number of beds per 1,000 people, 1.82, compared to the national average, 2.4. Oregon and Washington both have lower bed-to-people ratios than Utah. South Dakota has the highest number of beds per 1,000 people, 4.76, followed by North Dakota, Mississippi, West Virginia and Nebraska.

Utah ranks much lower in other categories, like the percentage of inpatient beds occupied by coronavirus patients, 4.8%, compared to 28.4% in Arizona, 16.3% in Florida and 16% in Texas.

Utah ranks below the national average in growth of the seven-day moving average of cases between June 7 and July 7, which is up 148% nationally and 70% in Utah.

The states with the highest percentage of growth in average cases are Montana, 1,175%; Florida, 736%; and Idaho, 716%; and the states with the lowest percentage increases are Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where growth in average cases dropped 71%, 68% and 53%, respectively.

Utah health officials have said the state’s hospitals could be overwhelmed if daily case numbers continue on the same trajectory.

On July 8, Tracy Hill, chief medical officer of Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, told the Utah County Commission that COVID-19 hospitalizations had “been rising” and, if daily cases continued to rise into August, “we will be stretching our capacity to care for these folks.”

“Right now, we are in pretty good shape,” said Hill. “That said, if this surge continues on the rate we’re currently on, we could be … overwhelmed.”

On July 10, executives from University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare called on Gov. Gary Herbert to implement a statewide mask mandate, citing a decline in availability of intensive care unit (ICU) beds.

More than 60% of ICU beds in hospitals statewide were occupied as of Monday, according to the Utah Department of Health. Just under 54% of non-ICU beds were occupied as of Monday.

The full analysis of state preparedness for surges in COVID-19 cases can be viewed at

Survey: Majority of Utahns support police reform efforts

A significant majority of Utahns support a wide array of police reforms ranging from prohibiting no-knock warrants to utilizing independent civilian review boards to investigate complaints against officers, according to a recent survey.

In the survey, which was commissioned by the Libertas Institute, a Lehi-based Libertarian think tank, and conducted by Public Policy Polling on July 1 and July 2, 1,140 Utah voters were asked a series of questions about law enforcement and criminal justice.

One of the questions was whether police officers “should be required to wear a body camera and be prohibited from turning it off in situations where force might be used, or has been used, against another person,” which 75% of those surveyed said they “strongly agree(d)” with and 16% said they “somewhat agree(d)” with.

Only 2% said they “strongly disagree(d)” that officers should be required to wear body cameras in such situations, and 5% said they “somewhat disagree(d).”

Similarly, 85% of respondents said they agreed that “a police officer who disables or fails to turn on their body camera should be disciplined” while 11% said they disagreed.

An even greater portion of Utahns surveyed, 9 out of 10, said they believe police officers “who have been proven to use excessive force against an individual should be subject to mandatory suspension or termination of their police certification.” Only 8% disagreed with that statement.

Should police officers who witness another officer’s misconduct or use of excessive force be required to file a report about it? Ninety-four percent of Utahns surveyed said they believe so and only 3% said they didn’t.

When it comes to investigating complaints of excessive force or other forms of misconduct by police officers, three-quarters of Utahns surveyed said law enforcement agencies should utilize independent civilian review boards. Meanwhile, 20% of respondents said they disagreed.

Two civilian review boards already exist in Utah: the Police Civilian Review Board in Salt Lake City and the Professional Standards Review Board in West Valley City.

When asked whether Utah police “should not be able to use no-knock warrants, which allow police to forcibly enter a person’s home, unless there is an imminent threat to someone’s life,” 73% of respondents said they agreed while 21% said they disagreed.

A smaller majority of Utahns, 60%, said they agreed that rather than “having police officers present on K-12 school campuses to deal with discipline issues and petty offenses, schools should instead call local law enforcement as needed to deal with actual crime,” while one-third said they disagreed.

The survey results, which were released by the Libertas Institute on July 13, come weeks after protests in Provo, Salt Lake City, Ogden and throughout the United States over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed after a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer knelt on his back for nearly 9 minutes.

On June 18, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill to ban police officers from using or being trained to use knee-on-neck chokeholds, one of a number of reform efforts called for by protesters and criminal justice reform advocates.

The survey asked whether Utahns agreed that “people of color are disproportionately negatively affected by the criminal justice system in Utah.” Forty-eight percent of respondents said they did and 42% said they didn’t; 11% said they weren’t sure.

Libertas Institute staff made a number of observations about the survey results, including that “even Republicans, white voters, and seniors … agree” with the majority of police reform efforts addressed in the survey.

“Even a majority of those who strongly disagree with the idea that the criminal justice system disproportionately affects people of color agree that no-knock warrants shouldn’t be used, use of excessive force should be punished, misconduct should be reported by other officers, body cameras should be a requirement and discipline carried out if they are disabled,” Libertas Institute staff wrote in a July 13 blog post.

The survey was conducted by landline and cell phone and has a 2.9% margin of error, according to the Libertas Institute. The full results and methodology can be viewed at

Recount on tap for Provo's Class F beer license referendum

Petitioners hoping for a November ballot referendum on whether Provo should have a Class F beer license for ancillary breweries or brewpubs, are seeking a recount after being told they came up just short in the official count.

Amanda Ercanbrack, Provo city recorder, announced Thursday after an official count by Rozan Mitchell and her staff in the county elections office and a second count by the city, that there were 3,019 valid signatures. Petitioners needed 3,157 valid signatures to get on the ballot.

That’s a difference of 138 signatures. For Kim Santiago, the main name on the petition, that small of a difference warrants another official count.

“The final numbers were so close that we’ve requested a recount that will take place (at 10 a.m.) on July 29,” Santiago said. “We appreciate Provo City and the Utah County elections office working with us on this.”

If the referendum had received the valid number of voter signatures, the voters would only be voting on the Class F beer license, not on if there should be brewpubs or not in Provo, according to the city.

In validating voters, Mitchell said that typically 20% of the petition signatures will not be valid.

Petitions were circulated while residents were in the orange phase of the “Stay Safe, Stay Home,” social quarantine for COVID-19. In April, Gov. Gary Herbert provided options for those collecting signatures.

Santiago said gathering the signatures had been an exhaustive process, in part due to COVID-19 and also new laws that require a certain percentage of signatures from each voting district rather than just being at-large.

With COVID-19, the referendum signers were allowed to use email and digital gathering as well as door-to-door petitions.

“The districts were a challenge,” Santiago said. “Especially the Central District. They’re not there. It’s mostly students and they are not in school. There were a lot of empty apartments.”

Santiago said they needed about 500 signatures from the Central District and got less than half of that. They had to make it up in other districts.

“We have 50 volunteers with about 15 doing the lion’s share of the work,” Santiago said previously. “It has really been a community effort.”

If the recount comes back in favor of the petitioners it will be printed on the November ballot.

LDS First Presidency announces changes in temple ceremonies, some phase 2 openings

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, consisting of church President Russell M. Nelson and his two counselors, Presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring, have announced a change to the church’s temple endowment ceremony.

On Monday the First Presidency released the following message:

“The sacred teachings, promises, and ceremonies of the temple are of ancient origin, and point God’s children to Him as they make further covenants and learn more about His plan, including the role of the Savior Jesus Christ.

“Through inspiration, the methods of instruction in the temple experience have changed many times, even in recent history, to help members better understand and live what they learn in the temple.

“Part of the temple experience includes the making of sacred covenants, or promises, to God. Most people are familiar with symbolic actions that accompany the making of religious covenants (such as prayer, immersion of an individual at baptism, or holding hands during a marriage ceremony). Similar simple, symbolic actions accompany the making of temple covenants.

“With a concern for all and a desire to enhance the temple learning experience, recent changes have been authorized to the temple endowment ceremony.”

The message goes on to say that because of the sacred nature of the temple ceremonies, members and friends are asked not to engage in speculation or public discussion about these changes.

“We invite church members to continue to look forward to the day when they may return and fully participate in sacred temple work prayerfully and gratefully,” the message concludes.

Ceremonies and other items pertaining to the temple have seen a number of adjustments or changes since Nelson was sustained as president of the church in April of 2018.

Some of those changes include; authorizing the immediate temple marriage (what the church formally calls a “sealing”) of couples first married civilly. In the past, a couple would have had to wait a year or more to be sealed in the temple if they were married civilly first.

Nelson has implemented changes to temple instruction sessions, including instructions during the sealing ceremonies of couples.

The church also modified the ordinance witness policy to enable all members of the church including youth and women, more ways to participate in temple worship. For instance, in times past, a worthy priesthood holder like the fathers, grandfathers or good male friends of a couple could be called upon to be the witnesses to the marriage. Now a mother or other worthy female member also may act as a witness.

In the October 2019 Semi-annual General Conference, Nelson announced an update to the temple recommend interview questions and added new questions in the interview.

In January, the First Presidency announced a change to the temple ceremonial clothing.

The covenants made in the temple have not changed.

As part of Monday’s message, the First Presidency also announced that 12 temples will enter Phase 2 of a three-phase plan to completely reopen all temples.

A Phase 2 opening allows for all living ordinances performed in the temple, such as marriages. The temple will still maintain closure of patron housing, clothing and cafeteria operations.