Coronavirus in Utah: This week saw a huge spike in cases and an outbreak at a meatpacking plant

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth performs a coronavirus test outside the Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake City on May 20, 2020. Utah is seeing a spike in new COVID-19 cases about a month after many businesses were allowed to reopen, leading state health officials to issue renewed pleas for people to maintain social distancing.

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When the Utah Department of Health announced 268 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, it ended a week in which cases in the state were up. Way up, in fact.

From June 1 to June 7, there were 2,269 new cases reported statewide. That number marks a noticeable increase after the 1,405 new cases reported May 25 through May 31. While cases were up statewide, the nine deaths reported during the June 1-7 period were down from 16 reported May 25 through May 31.

The spike in positive cases last week means Utah saw one of its worst weeks since the pandemic began gripping the United States in mid-March. Things began trending poorly the week before, when 1,091 new cases were reported between May 28 and May 31.

Things didn’t get much better as last week wore on. There were 316 new cases reported on Thursday, followed by a single-day high of 439 on Friday. Another single-day high of 546 came on Saturday before things calmed down a little on Sunday with 268. Despite that drop, Sunday marked the 11th day in a row in which the state reported more than 200 new cases.

The spike has Utah sitting at 12,066 new cases and 121 deaths as of Sunday.

That fact alone is a primary reason why most of Utah remains at a risk-assessment level of “yellow,” or low risk. Salt Lake City and the San Juan County towns of Bluff and Mexican Hat remain at “orange,” or moderate risk.

One area that has been hit especially hard recently is the Bear River Health District, which includes Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties. A Cache County meatpacking plant has accounted for what state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn termed “an ongoing outbreak.”

Bear River Health District cases began rising late last month, hitting double-digit new cases for the first time in a single day with 39 on May 29. Numbers in the 20s and 30s gave way to 158 on Friday and 216 on Saturday before dropping to 25 on Sunday.

Bear River’s 732 COVID-19 cases are the third most of any health district, behind Salt Lake County’s 6,182 and Utah County’s 2,261.

As cases rise statewide, that also applies to Salt Lake County, which had 842 new cases June 1 through June 7. That marks an increase of 22% from May 25 to May 31, when it had 659 cases.

Southwest Utah, which includes Washington, Iron, Kane, Beaver and Garfield counties, had 32 new cases reported Sunday, marking the 46th consecutive day of at least one new case in that health district dating back to April 23.

Southwest Utah is at 616 cases as of Sunday, including 162 between June 1 and June 7.