Utah’s latest COVID-19 surge continues, with 5,611 new cases and a dozen additional deaths reported over the last week by the Utah Department of Health Thursday.

The latest weekly update also showed the average daily case count rose more than 25% from the previous week. The seven-day percent positivity for tests is now nearly 23% when the results of multiple tests by an individual are excluded, up more than 18% from the previous week.

More people are being diagnosed with COVID-19 during emergency room visits, while the number of people in Utah hospitalized for the virus increased by 139 this week and the seven-day average for new hospitalizations for the virus jumped nearly 10%.

“COVID is here to stay. We need to learn to navigate this new environment,” as cases rise and fall, Dr. Brandon Webb, an Intermountain Healthcare infectious diseases physician, told reporters during a virtual news conference last week after confirming that the state was seeing another surge.

“At this point, one of the most important parts of our strategy to live with COVID as it ebbs and flows is one of personalized or individualized risk reduction,” Webb said. “People need to understand their risk. They need to understand the risk of those around them.”

Then, the doctor said, “they need to make both preparation and prevention” part of how they deal with the virus.

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He said there are five factors that determine risk:

  • Immunity. Getting vaccinated and boosted against the virus “remains a critical part of achieving immunity both at the individual level and at the population level in a safe way,” Webb said, while having had COVID-19 also “plays into your overall immunity.”
  • Age. The virus has hit older people much harder and is a “big part of risk,” he said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 81% of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths are among people over 65 years old.
  • Health. Overall health, and a number of medical conditions, also has a significant role in determining who becomes severely ill from the virus, Webb said. The CDC list includes cancer and other conditions that weaken the immune system, along with obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, heart conditions and pregnancy.
  • Behavior. What activities people choose to engage in is key, too, as well as how people behave. Experts have recommended that during COVID-19 surges, people consider wearing masks, staying away from large indoor crowds and testing themselves before gathering with others indoors.
  • Prevalence. How much COVID-19 is out there at any given time is the final consideration in determining risk, Webb said, warning that even with the impact of increased immunity there are still severe cases that require hospitalization and may result in death.

Utahns need “to be able to flex and use the tools that we do have. We need to protect those that are vulnerable,” the doctor said, especially through vaccination, so “although we’re tired of COVID, we’re not putting our head in the sand. We’re continuing to make good choices as individuals and as a community.”