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There was little but bad news in the Utah Department of Health’s weekly COVID-19 report on Thursday: more cases, a high positivity rate and more deaths than the previous week.
“We’re in a push phase again,” Dr. Brandon Webb, chair of Intermountain Healthcare’s COVID-19 Therapeutics Team, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
There have been 4,504 new cases of coronavirus and four more deaths in Utah in the past seven days, the health department reported. The number of new cases this week was more than a thousand more than the 3,385 reported last Thursday. The state’s seven-day average of new cases rose from 486.3 to about 645.
State officials are turning less to new cases to track the spread of COVID-19 — and more to metrics like sewage testing, hospitalizations and emergency room visits — as fewer people get test. Over the past week, 18,027 people have been tested, a decrease of 3,385 tests from the previous week. The weekly rate of positive tests, however, rose from 12.15% to 15.37%.
“I’m not surprised by today’s report of numbers,” Dr Webb said. “I think it’s a significant undercount, and you can assume that from our high test positivity. But I think the way this particular surge is doing elsewhere, we should expect to keep rising for another four weeks or so.
The Utah Department of Health issued a statement Thursday acknowledging the statewide increases, which – like Webb – noted that, “given trends in other parts of the country, we expect to see sustained increases over the next few weeks.”
These trends are a good reminder to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you haven’t already, including booster doses, the health department advised. “Vaccines provide protection against COVID-19 and can protect you from serious illness and the inconvenience of missed work and other activities,” the statement continued.
Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health and director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, said this surge is caused by subvariants of ‘omicron. But as with omicron, hospitals are seeing fewer hospitalizations relative to the total number of cases – although they expect hospitalizations to increase as the number of cases rises.
“We don’t have enough experience yet to say how clinically different they are from the original omicron in terms of symptoms,” Pavia said. “What we can say is that, unfortunately, these new variants are capable of infecting partially immune people. So if you’ve just had omicron, if you’ve just had two doses of vaccine, you’re very susceptible again.
“If you have higher levels of immunity, because you’ve had three doses of vaccine, or two doses of vaccine and an infection, or even better three doses of vaccine and an infection, you’re pretty well protected,” he said. continued Pavia. “But others, not so much.”
Although there is no mask requirement in Utah, the health department advises people who are at “higher risk of serious illness due to age or medical conditions” as well as those who live with people at higher risk “to consider taking precautions like wearing a mask in public places.
The UDOH is also calling on anyone who tests positive or has symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home to avoid infecting others. Isolation guidance is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/protect-yourself.
“If you’re someone who’s had three doses and recently had COVID-19, you probably don’t need to get the booster right away – but you should consider getting it later this summer in fall prep,” Webb said. .
But if you haven’t had a booster dose, or if you’re 50 or older, immunocompromised or at high risk, “consider getting a booster now,” Webb said.
Pavie warned against taking the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak lightly.
“There’s been a million Americans who have died. A million Americans — more than in all the wars we’ve fought together,” Pavia said. “We’re approaching about 1,600 child deaths. That’s about 16 winters of flu deaths.
“It might not seem like a big deal if it didn’t land on your front door, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime changing event,” Pavia continued. “And just because you were lucky enough not to be seriously affected yourself, you should really think about your neighbors, your community, the members of your congregations who have been affected and the things you can do to help. to protect them.”
COVID-19 sewage levels
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s survey of 32 municipal wastewater treatment facilities – covering about 88% of the state’s population – showed that 20.6% of those sites had reported an increase in COVID-19 RNA levels. This figure is significantly lower than the 63.6% of sites that reported an increase in virus levels last week.
The state reported Thursday that four sites have seen high levels of COVID-19. Nineteen sites were listed as being under ‘watch’, meaning officials had detected enough virus to indicate ‘potential concern’. Last week there were six sites with elevated levels and 17 sites under surveillance.
The majority of Utah’s wastewater treatment sites — 55.9% — are reporting “surveillance” levels of coronavirus. Another 29.4% reported “low” levels
Virus levels had plateaued at 61.8% of sites and 14.7% reported declining levels
COVID-19 hospitalization rate
Data shows that coronavirus patients accounted for 2.33% of emergency room visits over the past week, down from 1.53% the previous week.
Since last week, another 348 Utahns have been hospitalized with coronavirus, bringing the total to 34,595 patients hospitalized since the start of the pandemic. There are currently 118 COVID-19 patients in Utah hospitals, 41 more than last week.
The number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs increased from six to 18.
The state reported another 16,574 Utahns had received a COVID-19 vaccine since May 12, the last time it released data. Of these, 2,597 are now fully vaccinated, meaning they received two doses of an mRNA series vaccine, such as Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or one dose of the Janssen vaccine.
About 62.2% of Utahns — a total of 2,020,992 — are fully vaccinated and 28.6% received a booster shot, the data shows.
Breakdown of updated figures
Vaccine doses given in the past week/total doses given • 16,574 / 5,156,265.
Number of fully immunized Utahns • 2,020,991 — 62.2% of Utah’s total population. That’s an increase of 2,597 in the past seven days.
Cases reported last week: 4,504.
Average number of cases per day reported over the past week • 645.
Tests reported from May 12 to May 18 • 21,412.
Deaths reported last week • Four.
Two Utah County residents have died: a woman aged 65 to 84 and a man 85 or older.
A Salt Lake County woman, 65 to 84, died, as did a Washington County man, 65 to 84.
Hospitalizations reported this week • 118 on Thursday, an increase of 41 last week. There were 18 in intensive care, six more than last week.
Percentage of positive tests • Counting all test results, including repeat tests from the same individual, this week’s rate was 15.37%. This is more than the previous seven-day average of 12.15%.
Not including an individual’s repeat test results, this week’s rate was 18.83%, higher than the previous seven-day average of 15.49%.
Totals to date • 943,368 cases; 4,765 deaths; 34,595 hospitalizations.