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Utah reports 2nd highest COVID-19 spike in pandemic with 495 new cases

9 rural counties move to green phase or lowest risk level

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COVID-19 testing is performed at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo on Friday, May 8, 2020. In an effort to help address COVID-19 hot spots that have been identifieda in Utah County, the Intermountain Healthcare Coronavirus Mobile Testing Unit provided testing to area residents.

COVID-19 testing is performed at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo on Friday, May 8, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health reported another 495 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, marking three weeks of significant daily increases.

It is the second-highest daily increase in Utah since the pandemic began in mid-March.

The numbers have been spiking since the state lifted some restrictions, allowing more people to move about freely in public, eat inside at restaurants and bars, and in some cases, go back to work, on May 16.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday approved requests from nine additional counties to transition to even fewer restrictions, and move into the green guidance phase, or what officials are calling the “new normal” health risk status.

He said those rural counties — Beaver, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Garfield, Millard, Piute, Uintah and Wayne — occupy a “wide swath of Utah’s geography,” but account for just 3% of the state’s population.

“They also have some of Utah’s lowest case counts and hospitalization rates,” Herbert said. “The rural lifestyle they enjoy is defined by wider physical distancing and smaller, less densely populated towns. Although no area is completely free from risk, we feel comfortable having these sparsely populated regions transition from yellow to green.”

The rest of the state — except for Kane County, which moved to green last week — remains in the yellow guidance phase of recovery, meaning there is a low risk of contracting the coronavirus, but people still need to take precautions to be safe.

Salt Lake City is still at the moderate phase or orange level, due to higher case numbers in spots and greater evidence of community spread.

Herbert said he is “very concerned” about overcrowding hospitals with the increasing case counts.

“As we reengage economically, we need greater personal responsibility, not less,” he said. “Utah residents must continue to keep one another safe through common-sense physical distancing, mask wearing, staying home when sick and regular hand washing.”

The latest order, moving those counties to green status, goes into effect Friday at 1 p.m.

Face coverings are still strongly recommended by health officials in Utah and are recommended in all of the color-coded guidance provided by the state, including green.

“We cannot recover our economy unless we are at the same time engaging in safe health practices,” Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and chairman of the state’s economic recovery task force, said during Wednesday’s weekly briefing on COVID-19 in Utah.

The state has tested 282,685 people with a 5.6% positivity rate, which has fluctuated a bit and more so recently, depending on the status of various outbreaks in the state. Recent outbreaks at meat processing plants throughout northern Utah have increased the numbers of positive cases in some counties, particularly in Cache and Box Elder counties.

The total number of people in Utah who have been infected with the novel coronavirus is now 15,839.

An additional 18 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah since Wednesday. There are 150 people currently hospitalized with the virus, including 66 occupying beds in various intensive care units, according to the health department.

The largest percentage of hospitalized patients with the disease are over age 85, but the health department reports that the average age of people hospitalized with the virus in the state is 54. At least 52% of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah have at least one preexisting condition that may or may not worsen their condition.

Health officials have encouraged anyone over age 65 and/or with potentially compromising conditions to stay safe by staying home as much as possible.

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, who recently tested positive with COVID-19 antibodies, said on Wednesday that “we know this virus doesn’t treat everyone the same.”

“We can open the economy if we take care of the medically frail,” he said, adding that when they get sick, the medically frail are more likely to end up hospitalized and/or dying from the infection.

“Wearing a mask doesn’t protect you,” Adams said, encouraging the public to respect others in their communities.

The majority of Utahns infected with the virus are between the ages of 25 and 44, the health department reports, though, like Adams said, COVID-19 has impacted people in every age group.

Three more deaths were reported in Utah Thursday because of COVID-19, including a woman between the ages of 65 and 84 who was living at a long-term care facility in Salt Lake County; a San Juan County man between the ages of 45 and 64; and a man between ages 65 and 84 who was living in a long-term care facility in Washington County.

Since mid-March, 152 people in Utah have died from COVID-19.

In all, state health officials estimate at least 8,786 people in Utah have recovered from COVID-19.

The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:

  • Salt Lake County, 8,083; 630 hospitalized; 100 deaths.
  • Utah County, 2,861; 152 hospitalized; 19 deaths.
  • Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 1,126; 37 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
  • Southwest Utah, 919; 72 hospitalized; 9 deaths.
  • Davis County, 739; 59 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
  • Weber-Morgan, 588; 55 hospitalized; 9 deaths.
  • Summit County, 453; 41 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • San Juan County, 374; 38 hospitalized; 7 deaths.
  • Wasatch County, 368; 18 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
  • Tooele County, 184; 11 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • Central Utah, 81; 6 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 33; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • Southeast Utah, 30; 0 hospitalized; 0 deaths.

For more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.