SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 stand at 2,303, just under 100 more since Saturday, health officials said.
Just over 44,200 people have been tested in the Beehive State, again about a 1,700 rise from the previous day. While the state has the capacity now to test about 5,000 people per day — anyone showing symptoms including a cough, fever or shortness of breath is urged to get tested — the demand tends to decrease over the weekend, officials have said.
No new deaths were reported Sunday, leaving the death toll at 18.
The rate of positives among those tested remains about 5.2%. As Utah’s confirmed cases continue to grow at that rate, debate has centered on when Utah should prepare for its peak demand on the health care system — as well as when things can go back to normal.
Projections vary widely, with University of Utah statisticians projecting a surge on the health care system to begin as early as last week, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicting the peak in late April, and Intermountain Healthcare officials projecting the peak to happen as late as May and into early June.
Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said Friday it’s too early to tell if Utah is beginning to see its peak — as each model comes with uncertainty — but officials are preparing for a surge in the health care system.
Dr. Richard Orlandi, University of Utah chief medical officer of ambulatory care, explained in a Q&A session how health care officials are approaching the various projections.
“All of these are valuable predictions. ... But they differ because of the different data that goes into them,” Orlandi said.
“It’s a little bit like predicting the weather. If everyone says it’s going to rain tomorrow, it’s probably going to rain tomorrow. But if one person says it’s going to rain tomorrow, and another meteorologist says it’s going to be cloudy, another one says it’s going to be sunny, another says it’s going to be hail or snow … we don’t really know what it’s going to do tomorrow. And we have to be prepared for all of those different things,” according to Orlandi.
He says the different projections will more closely match each other as time goes on, but for now, a lot remains unknown. One hour, the hospital system is preparing for a “medical armageddon,” and the next hour it’s preparing for things to go “back to normal,” he said.
“And both of those are futures that may happen,” Orlandi said.
“The armageddon is looking much, much less likely,” he added, but Utahns need to continue protective measures as “that then flattens that curve and makes it less likely we’re going to outstrip our resources.”
While the protective measures and closures Utahns are enduring now are both “inconvenient” and “economically devastating,” Orlandi said, “Really, what people are doing here in Utah, it’s saving lives. We need to remember that.”
He said Utahns are doing well in “flattening the curve” in the safety measures they’re taking to prevent spreading the virus “because people are caring and thinking about others.”
“Getting back to normal is something we want to do as a society, clearly, and also we want to do that in our part in health care,” according to Orlandi.
He said officials are thinking of protective measures against the pandemic as a “dial switch.”
“That’s why we’re trying to find that dial where we can dial up enough to, ‘Let’s get people back to work, let’s get people out socially again. People are lonely and isolated … but let’s not do it such that things take off,” according to the chief medical officer.
One-hundred ninety-five people have required hospitalization at some point during the pandemic. The number of those currently hospitalized, as well as how many have recovered, has not yet been compiled by the state.
Officials and volunteers are still working to bring more personal protective equipment into the state for health care workers. Late this week, Utah received 40,000 face masks from Shanghai, China, to distribute to hospitals, churches and school cafeterias, which are still providing meals to students who need them while schools are closed.
A group of University of Utah medical students is continuing its donation drives for N95 respirators, sterile or vinyl gloves, safety glasses, face shields, disposable gowns, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The next drive is tentatively set to take place 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 17-19 at the Herriman Library branch, 5380 W. Main St.
The breakdown of Utah COVID-19 cases by health district as of Sunday:
- Salt Lake County, 1,126; 95 hospitalized
- Summit County, 304; 25 hospitalized
- Utah County, 313; 18 hospitalized
- Davis County, 199; 20 hospitalized
- Wasatch County, 103; 5 hospitalized
- Weber-Morgan, 96; 9 hospitalized
- Southwest Utah, 56; 8 hospitalized
- Bear River, 46; 8 hospitalized
- Tooele County, 33; 4 hospitalized
- San Juan County, 8; 2 hospitalized
- Central Utah, 6; 1 hospitalized
- Southeast Utah, 5; 0 hospitalized
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 8; 0 hospitalized