Utah announces new coronavirus deaths for a sixth straight day

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For the sixth straight day, Utah’s public health officials have announced that more people have died of the coronavirus. This is the longest streak Utah has seen since the pandemic started.

In the past week, nine have died, including two deaths announced Sunday — a man and a woman from Salt Lake County, over the age of 85, who had lived in a long-term care facility.

The deaths from the past week account for one-third of Utah’s total of 27.

The state also saw its overall number of cases top 3,000 Sunday, adding 138 from the day before, according to figures released by the Utah Department of Health.

Nursing homes have been among the hardest-hit areas in the country and in Utah. At least 11 of Utah’s 27 deaths have involved people who were staying in long-term care facilities.

“People who live in long-term care facilities are by and large living there because they’ve got significant underlying medical conditions,” said Tom Hudachko, a spokesman for the state health department. “So, just by definition, it’s going to be harder for those individuals to fight off this type of an infection, which means it’s just more and more important for us to prevent this virus from getting into these long-term care facilities.”

On Sunday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that a senior missionary from Willard had died Saturday due to complications from COVID-19. Elder Allen Dee Pace, 68, had been serving in the Michigan Detroit Mission alongside his wife, Sister Nedra Pace, since December 2019. He was diagnosed with the coronavirus in early April.

“We express our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Elder Pace as they mourn his passing, and we continue to pray for all who are impacted by this pandemic,” church spokesman Daniel Woodruff said in a statement.

This past week saw an increase in testing in Utah and a sustained increase in the number of positive cases. Utah has added at least 120 cases per day for the past five days. With more people getting tested, more are likely to test positive.

Since Wednesday, when the number of new cases significantly went up, the rate of people who tested positive has stayed steady in the 4%-6% range.

Hudachko said he focuses more on the rate of positive cases than the raw number of positive cases.

“It would make sense that if you tested fewer people, that you would find fewer positives,” Hudachko said. “On these days where we’ve really spiked our testing above 3,000-4,000, you would obviously find additional cases on days like that.”

The state reported 3,611 new tests on Sunday.

Utah’s hospitalization rate has remained about 8% of all cases and now stands at 259. The state reported that 679 people are believed to have recovered, having lived three weeks since their initial diagnosis. That accounts for 23% of all Utah cases.

While the increase in deaths is sad, Hudachko said it’s certainly not unexpected.

The majority of deaths have been people who were older than the age of 60 and had underlying medical conditions.

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of Sunday afternoon, the U.S. has reported more than 750,000 confirmed cases and more than 40,000 deaths for a case-fatality rate of 5.3%. That is much higher than in Utah, where the fatality rate stands at 0.9%.

“We knew that people would become sick enough to be hospitalized,” Hudachko said. “Unfortunately, some of those people would become so sick that they would pass away.”