SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah officials continue working to bring COVID-19 infection rates down in underserved minority communities amid the state’s surge in cases, the University of Utah Health and Huntsman Cancer Institute announced they received a $5 million award for that battle.
The National Institutes of Health granted the organizations the funding to launch the SCALE-UP Utah program, which “aims to increase the acceptance, reach, uptake and long-term sustainability of COVID-19 screening and testing,” U. Health officials said in a statement.
The hospital system will carry out the initiative with 12 community health care systems statewide serving more than 100,000 patients in rural and underserved communities.
“SCALE-UP Utah brings together partners from across Utah to ensure that there is adequate screening and testing for all population groups with a specific emphasis on those experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infection,” David Wetter, of U. Health and Huntsman Cancer Institute, said in the statement.
“No one should be left behind in being protected from COVID-19,” Wetter said.
On Saturday, Utah health officials reported 1,068 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths. The cases were confirmed of 7,097 reported tests, with a 15% positive rate, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Throughout the pandemic, those in the Latino and Hispanic and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities have been among the most affected by COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Though targeted testing and quarantine efforts in those communities haven driven case rates down, they remain disportionately impacted by the disease. As of Sunday, Latinos account for 31.3% of the state’s cases but just 14.2% of the population, while Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders account for 3.6% of cases but just 1.6% of the population.
Some rural areas are also starting to see an uptick in cases. On Saturday. Central Utah — which throughout much of the pandemic has seen new daily cases in the single digits — confirmed a record 20 new cases. Southwest Utah also reached its highest daily case count since July with 70.
Wetter said SCALE-UP Utah’s goal is to serve as a model for other health care systems. The program uses technology to connect patients and providers, and engages “patient navigators” to help patients address barriers that would prevent them from getting tested.
“SCALE-UP Utah will build an infrastructure that can be used for equitable dissemination of a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available,” Wetter said.
Now 76,225 cases have been confirmed of 852,680 people tested in Utah since the pandemic began, an 8.9% rate. The rolling seven-day average for new cases is 951 per day, and the average positive test rate is 13.9%.
Most of the new cases on Saturday were again confirmed in Salt Lake County, with 44%, and Utah County, with 27%. But Utah County is seeing a sharp decline in its surge less than two weeks after officials implemented a countywide mask mandate and Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University officials asked students to stay home except for essential travel.
Currently, 176 patients are hospitalized in Utah with COVID-19, 14 fewer than were hospitalized on Friday. Hospitalizations in the state since the outbreak started now total 3,956.
The deaths reported Saturday bring the state’s toll due to the disease to 467. They were a Wasatch County man between 65 and 84, and a Juab County man older than 85, both of whom were long-term care facility residents.
About 56,800 of Utah’s cases are considered recovered after surviving the three-week point since their diagnoses, meaning 19,000 cases remain active.
New COVID-19 cases reported Saturday by health district across Utah:
- Salt Lake County, 471.
- Utah County, 291.
- Davis County, 89.
- Southwest Utah, 70.
- Bear River, 43.
- Weber-Morgan, 43.
- Central Utah, 20.
- Wasatch County, 16.
- Summit County, 10.
- Tooele County, 10.
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 3.
- Southeast Utah, 2.
- San Juan County, 0.