SALT LAKE CITY — Scientists and researchers in Utah are joining labs across the globe to study how COVID-19 has spread and how to prevent future transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The Utah Department of Health announced an additional 305 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, reaching 12,864 statewide since mid-March.
Utah has tested more than 249,760 people and 954 have been hospitalized with the illness, with 128 people having died with COVID-19. The latest death is a woman between age 60 and 85 in Davis County, who was hospitalized at the time of her death.
Utah is one of 19 states experiencing an increasing 14-day trend of COVID-19 infections, according to the nonpartisan group behind covidexitstrategy.org, which is tracking states’ progress toward “a new normal.”
“Now more than ever, it is important to work together on projects like this to learn more about COVID-19 and how to fight it,” said Dr. David Hillyard, medical director at ARUP Laboratories’ Molecular Infectious Diseases Lab.
The Utah Public Health Laboratory in South Salt Lake has already sequenced more than 500 specimens, adding to thousands gathered at international data repositories, some of the many places around the world where the rapidly spreading disease is being studied.
Genetic analysis of positive COVID-19 specimens helps to track transmission back to the source, said Kelly Oakeson, chief scientist for bioinformatics and next generation sequencing at the public health lab.
He said it takes about three to four days for each sample and because Utah has more than 12,500 confirmed cases, they’ve enlisted ARUP, which not only has the expertise in genetic sequencing, but also the capacity to extract virus from samples to send to Ginkgo Bioworks, another partner in the study, for next generation sequencing.
“The mathematical methods used to analyze the data require lots of samples to identify accurate and reliable trends, so collaboration is vital to achieve actionable results,” Oakeson said. “The more data we collect, the clearer the picture of SARS-CoV-2 spread in Utah becomes.”
Most of the state remains in a yellow, or low-risk category, despite an increasing number of cases in the past week.
The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:
- Salt Lake County, 6,591; 549 hospitalized; 85 deaths.
- Utah County, 2,376; 124 hospitalized; 18 deaths.
- Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 837; 28 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
- Southwest Utah, 680; 53 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
- Davis County, 593; 53 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
- Summit County, 443; 40 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- Weber-Morgan, 414; 45 hospitalized; 8 deaths.
- San Juan County, 339; 32 hospitalized; 5 deaths.
- Wasatch County, 337; 15 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
- Tooele County, 153; 10 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- Central Utah, 50; 4 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- Southeast Utah, 28; 0 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 23; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.