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Super Bowl party? Utahns advised to stay home as COVID-19 cases above 1,200 a day

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Newman Knowlton gets a COVID-19 rapid test at the Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Thinking about heading out to a Super Bowl party during Sunday’s big game? Maybe hosting a crowd of fellow Tampa Bay Buccaneers — or Kansas City Chiefs — fans in front of your own big-screen TV? After all, aren’t COVID-19 cases heading down in Utah?

Think again, the state’s leading public health expert advises.

“C’mon, no,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said Friday when asked whether Utahns could get together for Super Bowl parties. “Only if you can have them virtually, and I encourage people to do that. Or with people who already live in their household.”

The Utah Department of Health reported 1,216 new coronavirus cases and 17 additional deaths in the state Friday.

The number of Utahns tested for the deadly virus went up by 7,696, for a new total of 2,061,926 people tested. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 1,222 per day and 16.3% for the percentage of laboratory tests that are positive, about half as many as during the recent surge following the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Vaccine doses increased by 20,180, with 382,881 administered in the state to date.

Dunn said Utahns need to stick to the public health advice that’s working — especially with the emergence of new virus variants, including one from Britain that has already been detected in Utah that may not only be more easily transmitted but could also be more deadly.

“I can’t emphasize this enough. I know our numbers look awesome. But our hospitals are still 80% full. We are at risk for another surge. We saw it in the U.K. and other countries. We know those variants are here. We know how to protect ourselves,” she said.

That means continuing to wear masks, practicing social distancing, keeping your hands clean and avoiding large gatherings, like Super Bowl parties, where cheering on your team, yelling at the referees and sharing snacks are easy ways to spread the virus.

“If we can just do that for several more months until we get truly, truly 70% of our population vaccinated, we will be home free. But I just — ugh — I don’t know if I personally could take another surge. So please, Super Bowl parties virtually or with people who live in your household,” Dunn said.

Dr. Petronella Adomako, an Intermountain Healthcare infectious diseases physician in Ogden, agrees.

“I don’t think the message has changed. Not yet. We still are discouraging people from attending large gatherings. We would prefer that you stay at home with your nuclear family and watch the Super Bowl,” Adomako told reporters during a virtual news conference Friday.

Even moving the festivities outdoors isn’t a good idea, the doctor said, especially given the weekend’s snowy forecast.

“If you have to, at least they should be outside. But look, it’s snowing right now. I don’t think anybody wants to be staying outside,” she said. “So again, we discourage the large gatherings, we discourage the parties. Just watch it with your nuclear family.”

That’s exactly what Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, is telling Americans.

“Every time we have something like this, there always is a spike, be it a holiday, Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Today” this week. “Super Bowl is a big deal in the United States. Enjoy the game, watch it on television, but do it with the immediate members of your family, the people in your household.”

Adomako said Utahns need to be patient, even as they tire of the nearly yearlong pandemic dragging on.

“I think I’m tapped out myself as well. It’s been long. It’s been difficult. But I do not think we should give up at this time because when we give up, we just kind of go back multiple steps,” she said, also recommending keeping up masking and other public health measures, including vaccinations. “They should hang in there.”

With more vaccine expected in Utah, the list of those eligible for doses is set to expand March 1 to include Utahns 65 and older and those with specified medical conditions. Already health care workers, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staffs, teachers and school staffs and Utahns 70 and older can get the shots.

Once as many as 75% to 80% of Utahns get vaccinated, Adomako said there could be more socializing.

“I don’t think we’re going to be in this situation for the rest of our lives,” the doctor said, adding that by fall, she’s hopeful that Utahns “should be able to hug each other. Getting more people vaccinated will help us achieve that goal.”

In Utah, there are currently 349 people hospitalized with COVID-19. The state’s death toll has now reached 1,728, an increase of 17 deaths that includes 12 that occurred before Jan. 15, the state health department said. The latest deaths are:

  • A Box Elder County man, between 65 and 84, hospitalized at time of death.
  • A Cache County man, older than 85, not hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man, older than 85, not hospitalized.
  • A Davis County woman, older than 85, not hospitalized.
  • A Morgan County man, between 45 and 64, hospitalized.
  • A Morgan County man, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.
  • Two Salt Lake County women, older than 85, both long-term care facility residents.
  • Two Salt Lake County women, 65-84, both long-term care facility residents.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • Two Utah County women, older than 85, neither hospitalized.
  • A Utah County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Weber County woman, older than 85, not hospitalized.