It was inevitable that variants of the COVID-19 virus would pop up — it’s the nature of a virus to mutate.

Unfortunately, however, mutations tend to make a virus worse, more contagious or deadly, or, at the very least, less treatable.

And, while the Utah Department of Health is sequencing only about 10% of all COVID-19 positive test results, there are inevitably more cases of variant illness than were detected just four months ago when the state reported its first known case of a variant.

To date, Utah has reported over 1,020 cases of COVID-19 variant disease among the now 400,352 known cases of SARS-CoV-2. The first of those was identified in January.

Health officials in Utah have said it is likely that variants of the COVID-19 virus — first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil — will infect more Utahns, especially since not enough people have been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

How close is Utah to herd immunity against COVID-19?

Variant COVID-19 infections have “skyrocketed” in Florida, after all COVID-19-related restrictions have been lifted there, according to a Sunday ABC News report. More than 11,000 cases of variant illness have recently been reported in Florida, compared to just over 750 known cases in mid-March. The Florida health department screens just 1% of all positive COVID-19 cases for variants.

Officials in Florida believe the rampant transmission of disease is a result of travel surges in the area in late March and April.

Many Utahns also visited the Sunshine State during spring break, though, the Utah Department of Health’s COVID-19 surveillance tracker does not indicate when variant cases are detected, just that they have been. The most common variant in Utah and in Florida is B.1.1.7., the variant first identified in the U.K. in December.

The health department reported 232 new COVID-19 cases in Utah on Sunday, which is in line with previous reports that infections have once again plateaued in the state. Numbers reported on Sunday in Utah are similar to those reported in June of last year.

The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 336 per day. There have been more than 2.6 million people tested for the virus in Utah, and 4.73 million tests conducted. 

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Utah has administered 2.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including 22,730 doses on Saturday. So far, 1,048,036 people in Utah are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, health department data show, which is about 33% of the population.

COVID-19 vaccines are available to anyone in the state age 16 and older, though federal approval for ages 12 to 15 is expected sometime this week.

Will Utah keep vaccinating a high number of people each day going forward?

There are 139 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, up slightly from 137 people reportedly hospitalized a week ago and includes 21 newly hospitalized patients. The state also reported yet another death due to the disease, bringing Utah’s COVID-19 death toll to 2,224 lives lost.

The latest death includes a Salt Lake County man between the ages of 45 and 64 who was hospitalized at the time of his death.

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