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Utah again smashes daily record for new COVID-19 cases with 1,411 confirmed

Heather Wetch, Caleb Stepaniak and Marina Hays conduct tests as the University of Utah’s Wellness Bus conducts COVID-19 testing at West Valley City’s Centennial Park on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020.
Heather Wetch, Caleb Stepaniak and Marina Hays conduct tests as the University of Utah’s Wellness Bus conducts COVID-19 testing at West Valley City’s Centennial Park on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah again smashed its record for new COVID-19 cases on Friday with 1,411 positive tests, according to state health officials.

The previous record day for new cases occurred on Thursday, when just under 1,200 cases were confirmed.

Officials with the Utah Department of Health said the surge continues to be “driven by an increase of cases among young people,” but data shows the increases, as expected, are starting to “spill over to other age groups.”

Nearly every age group in Utah is seeing a spike in new cases, with the largest occurring in those ages 15-24. They accounted for 463 of the state’s cases on Thursday.

The second-largest increases are occurring in those ages 25-44, who represented 447 of Thursday’s cases, as well as those ages 45-64, who made up 278 of the day’s cases, according to health department data.

Utah County, which currently has the highest rate per-capita of the disease in the state and this week implemented a mask mandate, accounted for 37.6% of Friday’s cases. Salt Lake County accounted for 41.5% of the cases. But other areas are also seeing a large increase — Davis County confirmed 92 cases and Southwest Utah confirmed 61 on Friday.

The rolling seven-day average for new cases statewide is 960 per day, and the average positive test rate is 14%. Currently, 184 patients are hospitalized with the disease in Utah, four fewer than on Thursday.

Outbreaks associated with schools — meaning two or more cases traced to a specific time, location and transmission source — have exploded to 105, resulting in 771 cases, 14 hospitalizations and zero deaths.

Interestingly, while slightly more males in Utah overall have contracted coronavirus in Utah than females, 57.6% of the cases associated with school outbreaks are female, according to health department data. The median age of cases is 16.

‘Tremendous’ increase in demand for testing

Friday’s cases were reported as 10,242 people received tests, with a 13.8% positive rate, the Utah Department of Health said.

“Today, we see yet another record-setting day for COVID-19 in our state. For the first time, we’ve hit more than 10,000 tests reported in a 24-hour period. Testing is a critical component of our response and helps us understand the spread of the virus in our communities,” officials with the health department said in a statement.

Anyone with one or more symptoms of the coronavirus — fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, or a decrease in the sense of taste or smell — is encouraged to get tested at one of the state’s 70 testing locations, state health officials said.

As the state continues working to increase its testing capabilities, Intermountain Healthcare announced Tuesday it is transitioning to saliva-based testing for patients ages 6 and older.

“This new process should be much more comfortable for patients and enable us to collect samples from more patients at one time while continuing to maintain a high quality of our testing,” said Dr. Bert Lopansri, Intermountain Healthcare associate medical director for infectious diseases and medical director for microbiology.

Younger children, as well as those unable to produce enough saliva, will still be tested by nasal swab.

Beginning Monday, University of Utah Health will begin testing for COVID-19 by appointment only due to growing demand and long lines.

“As our testing volumes have increased tremendously in the last week or two, it has become clear that we need to make a change,” Dr. Richard Orlandi said. “We’ve been saddened to see people waiting in line for one, two, or even more hours.”

Testing administrators have gotten “very efficient” at testing throughout the last six months, and now perform an average of one test per minute, said Michael Bronson, an administrative director with U. Health who oversees the system’s drive-thru testing units.

Due to the lines, staff members are working until 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. to accommodate all the patients who are waiting, although testing officially runs between 7 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Bronson said.

The increase in demand has also occurred after the system earlier this month began testing using saliva samples rather than nasal swab.

“We’re seeing similar volumes now that we saw back in June or July when we were at a peak in testing at that time. We do believe it’s due to saliva testing, and as that becomes more readily available with other partners in health care in the state of Utah, we look forward to those barriers being lower for patients to get testing everywhere. We do think, however, that a large component is also the increased demand for testing as people are more concerned, and frankly, more are getting symptoms,” Orlandi said.

The system’s focus is on testing only those patients who are symptomatic.

He said the surge in cases is also impacting the U. Health workforce as the system tries to expand testing capabilities.

“We are finding it difficult to expand the testing to keep up to the demand for a number of different reasons,” Orlandi said. “We continue to have open positions that we’re hiring into.”

Patients can make an appointment to get tested at U. Health on through their MyChart accounts, online at healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus, or by calling 801-587-0712
.

Four more deaths were also reported Friday: a Weber County man and Iron County woman, both between 65-84 and hospitalized when they died; and a Salt Lake County woman older than 85 and Washington County man between 65-84, both of whom were long-term care residents.

New COVID-19 cases reported Friday by health district across Utah:

  • Salt Lake County, 585.
  • Utah County, 530.
  • Davis County, 92.
  • Southwest Utah, 61.
  • Weber-Morgan, 55.
  • Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 41.
  • Wasatch County, 12.
  • Tooele County, 9.
  • Southeast Utah, 9.
  • Central Utah, 7.
  • Summit County, 4.
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 4.
  • San Juan County, 2.