Woman who died in Weber County nursing home is Utah’s 5th coronavirus death; 887 cases confirmed

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Medical workers provide drive-thru COVID-19 testing at University of Utah Health’s Redwood Health Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 27, 2020.

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As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Utah approached 900 Tuesday, state health officials announced the death of a woman who tested positive in a long-term care facility in Weber County.

There are “less than three” confirmed cases of coronavirus in long-term care facilities in Utah, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said. Of the 887 cases confirmed statewide as of Tuesday, only “a few” are health care workers — and none of them has cared for patients with coronavirus, Dunn said.

The state also released new demographic data Tuesday, which showed 73 patients have required hospital care — but another 172 cases remain “under investigation” as to whether the patient was hospitalized.

It’s not clear how the woman who died in Weber County, the state’s fifth coronavirus death, contracted the virus. She was an “older adult” but under age 60, Dunn said.

“The individual had underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe disease and complication from COVID-19,” the Weber-Morgan Health Department wrote in a news release. “She was previously receiving hospice services for some time.”

Health officials confirmed that the woman lived at Mt. Ogden Health and Rehabilitation Center in Washington Terrace, which earlier had posted an alert on its website that a resident had been diagnosed with coronavirus on March 23.

“This resident presently remains with us for continued treatment. Please know that the care of this patient is being directed and carefully overseen by his/her physician; is being continuously monitored by the clinical staff at Mt. Ogden; and is being managed consistent with the guidance that has been provided to us by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, the County and State Health Departments, and the World Health Organization,” the center posted.

The woman’s roommate and two employees were tested for coronavirus and received negative results, said Dunn and Lori Buttars, spokeswoman for the Weber-Morgan Health Department. The center discontinued new admissions for 14 days following the woman’s diagnosis, Buttars said.

State licensure reports show the center has 108 beds, but it’s not clear how many were occupied while the patient was there. The Salt Lake Tribune could not immediately reach Mt. Ogden administrators for comment.

"That long-term care facility was able to take all of the appropriate precautions to prevent spread, and no one else in that facility has tested positive for COVID-19 yet,” Dunn said. She said she didn’t know how many residents and employees live and work at the facility.

The woman developed symptoms last week, Buttars said. “They isolated her right away," Buttars said, and tested her for coronavirus. She died just after 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Buttars said.

Dunn said health officials know that people in long-term care locations are “our most at-risk population, so our facilities are doing an excellent job in terms of screening visitors and the health care workers and not allowing sick people in there that could possibly spread COVID into that vulnerable population.”

The Mt. Ogden center posted a notice on March 14 that it would only allow “essential medical personnel or end-of-life visitors” to enter.

Tuesday’s new total reflects 18,513 patients tested in the state. There were 2,510 tests completed on Monday, Dunn said, correcting Gov. Gary Herbert, who earlier had said 4,000 were tested on Monday. Nonetheless, Monday marked a new high in the number of people tested in Utah during a single day, Dunn said.

Health care workers have been instructed to test anyone with symptoms — cough, fever or shortness of breath — or anyone who has had close contact with a known patient, Dunn said. As of last week, the number of patients seeking tests was less than the state’s testing capacity, Dunn has said; she said she did not know whether any patients were being turned away this week.

Herbert has said the state’s goal is to administer 7,000 tests each day. On Tuesday, he said, fifteen machines with rapid testing capability were en route to Utah.

About 5% of people tested in Utah have received positive results — a figure that has remained consistent throughout the epidemic. Tuesday’s total of 887 confirmed cases amounted to a 10% increase over Monday’s total of 806.

For the first time, the state on Tuesday released demographic data for the confirmed cases in Utah, and the number of patients who have been hospitalized. Of the 73 patients so far confirmed to have required hospital care, 35 were between the ages of 45 and 64, representing 12% of the cases in that age group.

Patients ages 65 to 84 were most likely to require hospital care, with a hospitalization rate of 22%, based on 99 cases.

Although patients ages 25 to 44 make up the largest group of the total confirmed cases — 354 altogether — only 13 of them have been hospitalized, or 3.6% of the patients in that age group.

There were 129 confirmed patients age 24 and under, with just 15 of those age 14 and younger. One infant in Utah has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Of the cases where investigators have confirmed whether or not hospital care was required, Utah’s overall hospitalization rate is 10% — about half of what some other states and countries have seen, Dunn has said.

State officials identified 394 female patients and 466 male patients diagnosed with coronavirus. Female patients outnumbered male patients only in the 15 to 24 age group, at 57 cases to 55 cases.