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The Utah Department of Health’s weekly COVID-19 report Thursday had little but bad news: more cases, a high positivity rate, and more deaths than the week before.
“We are in a phase of increase again,” said Dr. Brandon Webb, chairman of Intermountain Healthcare’s COVID-19 therapeutics team, at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
In the past seven days, Utah has seen 4,504 new coronavirus cases and four other deaths, 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 median of new cases rose from 486.3 to about 645.
State officials are looking less at new cases to track the spread of COVID-19 — and more at metrics like sewage analysis, hospitalizations and emergency room visits — because fewer people are being tested. 18,027 people were tested last week – a drop of 3,385 tests from the previous week. However, the weekly rate of positive tests rose from 12.15% to 15.37%.
“I’m not surprised by today’s numbers report,” said Dr. Webb. “I think it’s a clear undercount and you can surmise that from our high test positivity. But I think the way this particular surge is doing elsewhere, we should expect it to keep going up for about four more weeks.”
The Utah Department of Health released a statement Thursday acknowledging the increases across the state, which — like Webb — noted that “given trends in other areas of the country, we expect continued increases in the coming 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. “The 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 increase is being caused by subvariants of Omicron. But similar to omicron, hospitals are seeing fewer hospitalizations in terms of total cases — although they expect hospitalizations to increase as the caseload increases.
“We don’t have enough experience yet to say how clinically they differ from the original Omicron in terms of symptoms,” Pavia said. “What we can say is that unfortunately these new variants can infect people with partial immunity. So if you just had Omicron, just got two doses of vaccine, you’re pretty vulnerable again.”
“If you have a higher level of immunity because you’ve had three doses of vaccine, or two doses of vaccine and one infection, or best of all, three doses of vaccine and one infection, you’re pretty well protected,” Pavia continued. “But others not so much.”
Although masks are not mandatory in Utah, the Department of Health and Human Services advises people who are at “higher risk of serious illness because of age or medical conditions,” as well as those living with higher-risk people, “to consider precautions like wearing a mask.” in public places.”
UDOH is also urging anyone who has tested positive or has COVID-19 symptoms to stay home to avoid infecting others. Isolation guidance is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/protect-youself.
“If you’re a person who’s had three doses and recently had COVID-19, you probably don’t need to get the booster right away — but should consider getting it later this summer to prepare for the fall,” he said webb .
But if you haven’t received booster doses, or are 50 or older, immunocompromised, or otherwise at risk, “think about boosting now,” Webb said.
Pavia warned against taking the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak lightly.
“There were a million Americans who died. A million Americans – more than in all the wars we’ve fought together,” Pavia said. “We are approaching approximately 1,600 child deaths. That’s about 16 winters of influenza deaths.”
“It might not be a big deal if it didn’t end up on your doorstep, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime transformative event,” Pavia continued. “And just because you’ve been fortunate enough not to be badly affected yourself, you should really think about your neighbors, your community, the affected people in your communities and the things you can do to protect them.”
COVID-19 wastewater values
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality survey of 32 municipal wastewater treatment facilities — covering about 88% of the state’s population — showed that 20.6% of those sites reported an increase in COVID-19 RNA levels. This is significantly less than the 63.6% of websites that reported increases in virus levels last week.
The state reported Thursday that four locations had been found to have elevated levels of COVID-19. Nineteen locations were listed as “watched,” meaning officials had detected enough virus to flag “potential concerns.” Last week there were six locations with elevated levels and 17 monitored locations.
The majority of Utah’s wastewater facilities — 55.9% — are reporting “observed” levels of coronavirus. Another 29.4% indicated “low” values
At 61.8% of the sites, virus levels had plateaued and 14.7% reported falling levels
COVID-19 hospitalization rates
Data shows coronavirus patients accounted for 2.33% of emergency room visits in the past week, compared to 1.53% the previous week.
As of last week, 348 more Utahns have been hospitalized with coronavirus, bringing the total to 34,595 patients hospitalized since the pandemic began. There are currently 118 COVID-19 patients in Utah hospitals, up 41 from last week.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units increased by six to 18.
The state reported that 16,574 more Utahns have received a COVID-19 vaccine since May 12, the last time it released data. Of these, 2,597 are now fully vaccinated, meaning they have 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% have received a booster shot, the data shows.
Breakdown of updated figures
Vaccine doses administered in the past week/total doses administered • 16,574 / 5,156,265.
Number of fully vaccinated Utahans • 2,020,991 – 62.2% of the total Utah population. That’s an increase of 2,597 in the past seven days.
Cases reported in the past week: 4,504.
Average cases per day reported in the past week • 645.
Reported tests from May 12th to May 18th • 21,412.
Deaths reported in the past week • Four.
Two Utah County residents died: a woman, ages 65 to 84, and a man, ages 85 or older.
A Salt Lake County woman, 65-84, died, as did a Washington County man, 65-84.
Hospital admissions reported this week • 118 on Thursday, up from 41 in the past week. There were 18 in intensive care, six more than reported last week.
Percentage of positive tests • Taking into account all test results, including repeat tests by the same person, the rate this week was 15.37%. That’s higher than the previous seven-day moving average of 12.15%.
Excluding one person’s repeat test results, the rate this week was 18.83%, up from the previous seven-day average of 15.49%.
Totals to date • 943,368 cases; 4,765 deaths; 34,595 hospital admissions.