SALT LAKE CITY — For the second day in a row, Utah on Saturday broke its daily record of positive COVID-19 tests, with 643 confirmed.
That is 57 more than Friday, which was the state’s previous record at 586 cases. Just over 5,500 more people received tests since Friday’s report with a nearly 11.7% positive rate, according to the Utah Department of Health.
“These numbers are sobering. For three straight weeks now our cases have been increasing at a rate that isn’t sustainable. We are at risk for overwhelming our hospital capacity, which could result in Utahns not getting the medical care they need. The only explanation for this increase in cases is that we are experiencing a real and a dramatic rise in the spread of COVID-19 across our state,” Dr. Angela Dunn, epidemiologist with the state health department, said.
The new cases bring the state’s total since the pandemic began to 17,068 out of 292,877, of which the positive rate has risen slightly to 5.8%. Just under 9,400 of those cases are now considered recovered after passing the three-week point since their diagnoses.
Dunn asked residents not to “ease” in their precautions against the virus.
“We continue to contact trace, test, evaluate data, and provide policymakers with evidence-based recommendations. As they engage more with the economy, Utah residents must do their part by limiting their number of close contacts through good physical distancing, wearing a mask when physical distancing is not possible, staying home if you’re sick, and washing your hands regularly,” Dunn said.
No new deaths were reported Saturday, leaving the state’s toll at 155.
In Utah, 16 more people required hospitalization for the novel coronavirus. Current hospitalizations rose slightly to 152 from 149 the previous day.
The largest increases in cases Saturday occurred in Salt Lake County, with 324 more cases confirmed; Utah County, with 99; the Bear River health district, with 61; Southwest Utah, with 57; Davis County, with 47; and Weber-Morgan, with 38.
The rest of Utah’s counties or health districts saw fewer than 10 cases each confirmed Saturday.
During the three-week rise in cases after restrictions were loosened in mid-May, local and state officials have continued to express concerns that many are not following social distancing guidelines or wearing masks in places where distancing is difficult.
In Utah County — which has the second-highest number of cases in the state and continues to see high daily rises — officials say some are ignoring quarantine orders, attending work and participating in recreational activities, exposing others to the virus.
And in southern Utah, which began to see a spike in cases last month, some residents say they are even facing criticism for choosing to wear masks.
Joy Davis’ young daughter has cerebral palsy. Though she isn’t immunocompromised, “I just have to be really careful because if she gets sick, kids with cerebral palsy are just a lot more prone to developing really dangerous bouts of pneumonia because they can’t sit up to cough,” Davis, of St. George, explained.
That’s why the family is continuing to be careful when they go out in public. They wear masks, she said, but they don’t judge others who choose not to.
On Tuesday, Davis walked into Target to find a decor item for her family’s new home. Her husband and kids remained in the car while Davis went in wearing a face mask. Soon after she entered the store, a couple approached.
“And as I got closer the woman jumped out and breathed in my face, like just a few inches from my face,” Davis recalled. “It was close enough that I could feel her breath on my cheeks. She breathed in my face heavily and jumped back and just kept walking.”
What made the interaction even more strange is that the woman didn’t laugh or say anything to explain her action, the mom said.
“I was kind of like, so baffled, and I took about 10 more steps and then I started to cry,” Davis said. “I was just so confused about what had happened, and why she would do something like that.”
“It felt really malicious,” Davis said. In tears, she immediately left the store.
“That hurt, because here I am, I’m trying to be a good mom to my kid and protect my child, and I don’t feel like I should be punished for doing something that’s best for my family.”
She spoke out about the incident, including posting about it on social media, in the hopes of encouraging compassion, regardless of someone’s choice whether or not to wear a face mask.
“Honestly, I just want people to think twice before they do something like that, and just be kind to someone who’s wearing a mask. ... They’re probably not trying to make a political statement, they’re just trying to do what’s best for their family and best for them,” she said.
“It’s fine to have a strong opinion, but it’s also important to realize some might believe differently.”
And it’s impossible to know others’ reasons for wearing a mask. They could have a sick child or be at-risk themselves.
Davis says her husband has also been mocked in lines at stores for wearing gloves and a mask, and accused of believing the “scamdemic.”
“Right now we live in a time when people are developing really strong opinions about things, in developing our opinions, I think sometimes we forget about humanity, we forget to be kind,” Davis said.
The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:
- Salt Lake County, 8,687; 656 hospitalized; 102 deaths.
- Utah County, 3,056; 157 hospitalized; 19 deaths.
- Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 1,249; 38 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
- Southwest Utah, 1,031; 77 hospitalized; 9 deaths.
- Davis County, 822; 59 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
- Weber-Morgan, 641; 57 hospitalized; 9 deaths.
- Summit County, 460; 41 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- San Juan County, 382; 39 hospitalized; 7 deaths.
- Wasatch County, 380; 18 hospitalized; 3 deaths.
- Tooele County, 195; 11 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- Central Utah, 96; 6 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 38; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- Southeast Utah, 31; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.