‘We’re still at very high rates:’ As Utah COVID cases decline, hospitalizations and deaths compare to previous peaks

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As Utah’s COVID-19 cases continue to decline from January’s peak, hospitalizations, deaths and the rate of testing with positive results remain as high as they were during previous outbreaks of the virus.

“I want to make sure it’s clear that while these rates are coming down very quickly, we’re still at very high rates in our state,” said Erin Clouse, a public health specialist at the University of Washington. Utah Health.

The Utah Department of Health reported 2,068 new cases over President’s Day weekend: 848 Friday, 566 Saturday, 379 Sunday and 318 Monday. Over the past week, 12.3% of tests have come back positive — a figure only surpassed in Utah’s worst previous surges.

There were 415 Utahns hospitalized with the coronavirus on Tuesday, down 44 from Friday but still higher than through most of the pandemic. The one-week average is just below 500 — “just as high as the previous two peaks,” Clouse said.

There were 98 Utahns with COVID-19 in intensive care units. Intensive care units at the state’s largest ‘benchmark’ hospitals had a capacity of 77.1%, below the 85% threshold that hospital administrators deemed necessary to allow room for staffing levels unpredictable events, new patients and the availability of specialized equipment and personnel.

Intensive care units at these major hospitals had exceeded 85% occupancy almost continuously since late August, but numbers fell below that threshold last week. Overall, 71.6% of critical care beds in the state are occupied.

However, emergency rooms remained busy, said Dr. Kencee Graves, associate chief medical officer for inpatient health at University Hospital.

“As of this morning, we only have a few acute care beds open and many people who need those beds,” Graves said at a press conference on Tuesday. “So I would say that even though COVID might be declining in our community, we’re still seeing effects here at the hospital.”

According to state data, 60.9% of Utahns were fully vaccinated as of Friday. However, researchers have found that a booster is crucial to preventing serious illness – and only 26.5% of all Utahns have received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The state reported 13 new deaths, including one that occurred before Jan. 22.

Find where to get vaccinated at coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution. Find where to get tested at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-covid-19-testing-locations.

Breakdown of updated figures

Vaccine doses given last weekend/total doses given • 11,323 / 4,928,331.

Number of fully immunized Utahns • 1,977,751 — 60.9% of Utah’s total population. That’s an increase from 3,307 last weekend.

Cases reported over the past weekend • 2,068.

Vaccination status • Health officials do not have or immediately publish the vaccination status of people who test positive, who are hospitalized or who die. They calculate the overall relative risks of these outcomes based on vaccination status, which is shown below.

Tests reported last weekend • A total of 32,510 people were tested.

Deaths reported since Friday • 13.

Two men between the ages of 25 and 44 died, one from Salt Lake County and the other from Washington County.

Salt Lake County also reported the deaths of four men between the ages of 65 and 84 and a man and woman over the age of 84.

Weber and Sanpete counties reported the death of one man each, ages 45 to 64. A Carbon County man between the ages of 65 and 84 also died, as did a Uintah County man and a Box Elder man, each over the age of 84.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate was 15.2% over the past day. That’s below the seven-day average of 21.2%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeat tests from the same individual. Friday’s rate was 6.4%, below the seven-day average of 12.6%.

[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]

Risk reports • Over the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 8.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to an analysis by the Utah Department of Health. Unvaccinated people were also 4.2 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.5 times more likely to test positive for coronavirus.

Totals to date • 920,290 cases; 4,372 deaths; 32,953 hospitalizations; 9,181,047 tests administered.

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