Nine of Utah’s 29 counties have reached the medium community level for COVID-19, up from just three a week ago.
The updated map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows about a third of U.S. counties are at the cautionary level, including Salt Lake, Summit, Weber, Grand, San Juan, Piute, Garfield, Kane and Washington counties in Utah. The rest of Utah’s counties remain at the low level.
That’s just under a 10% increase in the number of counties nationwide at the medium community level, where the CDC advises people to talk to their health care providers about wearing masks and taking other precautions against catching the virus if they are at high risk of becoming severely ill.
Those who live with or spend time with people at high risk should consider masking up and testing for the virus, the CDC says, urging everyone to stay up to date on their vaccinations, including booster shots available to everyone 5 and older.
Pam Anderson, 68, of West Valley City, who got tested Friday for COVID-19, said she’s worried about living in a county that’s at the CDC’s medium community level for the virus. Anderson said she’s considered at high risk because she has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and had open heart surgery in the past.
“It’s scary. We just, I don’t know, we just have to do something, but I’m not sure what. We get kind of lax about it and then it kind of comes back and hits us again,” the part-time office manager said. “We just can’t be lax, I guess. We need to mask up better.”
She said she may start wearing a mask again at times even though that’s difficult with her COPD.
“It’s like I get this confidence from my boosters and my vaccines and everything so I think I’m OK. And that’s probably not correct,” Anderson said while waiting for her test results. The daughter she and her husband are living with in South Jordan while their home is remodeled tested positive a few days ago.
“I started coughing yesterday,” Anderson said, adding, “I feel all right. Calling herself “a fighter,” she said she wanted to know if she’s infected with the virus “just to be on the safe side. Because if I am, I don’t want to go out and expose it to somebody else.”
There have been 7,502 new COVID-19 cases reported in Utah over the past week, along with a dozen additional deaths from the virus, according to the weekly Utah Department of Health data released Thursday. The weekly report showed 213 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.
More telling is the more than 31% jump in the daily average of new cases in Utah, now at 1,073, and the increase in the daily average of new hospital admissions for the virus, up more than 21%. The daily average number of patients in an intensive care unit with COVID-19 has dropped just over 10%, however, to below 17.
Utah’s death toll from the virus is at 4,793 with the 12 additional deaths reported Thursday, including a Salt Lake County woman, 25-44; a Salt Lake County man, 45-64; a Tooele County woman, 45-64; four Utahns 65-84; and five Utahns 85 or older.
The CDC uses case counts as well as hospital admissions and capacity to determine community levels of the virus under new metrics put in place earlier this year, after the omicron variant sent cases soaring to record levels in Utah and the rest of the country.
Universal masking is now recommended by the CDC only when community levels hit the high mark.
Under the earlier metrics used to determine the COVID-19 risk by county that relied on lower case counts, nearly 79% have a high level of transmission. In Utah, only Rich County is at a moderate level of transmission, although data is not available for Beaver or Daggett counties. The rest of Utah is at the high level.