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While no new deaths were reported, Utah saw an increase of 332 positive COVID-19 cases Sunday, according to the Utah Department of Health, and the state set a record for active hospitalizations at 137.
Sunday ended a week in which the state saw the outbreak worsen as cases rose by 2,247 and 18 more people died. Overall, Utah has had 14,313 people contract the coronavirus, and of those, 5,922 are estimated to be battling the disease. That is the highest active case rate the state has seen, rising nearly 1,000 cases in the week. In all, the disease has killed 139 Utahns.
These concerning numbers come as some parts of the state loosened restrictions.
Gov. Gary Herbert kept Salt Lake City at the “orange” risk level. But he moved San Juan County’s Bluff and Mexican Hat to “yellow,” and Kane County to “green.” He did say, however, that Utah as a whole won’t be going to “green,” which is a removal of restrictions, any time soon.
Herbert and state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said this week that the looser restrictions shouldn’t equate to Utahns foregoing mitigation measures such as wearing face masks and keeping 6 feet of social distance.
This past week also saw demonstrations continue in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the police killing of George Floyd. Those protests have attracted thousands of Utahns, and increasingly participants have been wearing face masks.
Dunn said earlier in the week that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that the rise in cases was tied to the protests. But on Friday, health officials in Salt Lake County said they believe they found a protester who got the disease at a rally.
After the state’s case number hit an all-time high of 546 on June 6, it got below 300 for three straight days. But positive test results surged as the week ended. The rolling seven-day average of new cases stayed above 300 for the whole week, which hasn’t happened before. On Sunday, the seven-day average was 321 new daily cases.
The increase in positive tests wasn’t recorded in just one or two hot spots. They span across Utah from Logan to Herriman, from Springville to St. George. Though the biggest outbreak has been recorded outside of Logan, where nearly 300 people working at a Hyrum meatpacking plant tested positive and some subsequently rallied against the company, requesting paid time off and a pause to clean the plant.
It was also a week in which Republican gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman and six of his campaign staffers tested positive for the novel coronavirus. He had previously received a false negative.
The Hispanic community continued to be the hardest hit among all racial demographics in Utah. The difference in cases between Hispanics and white people passed 1,000 this week, shining a light on how the state was slow to respond to the needs of the Hispanic community when the pandemic arrived.
The rate of positive tests also increased over the past week. It started at 5.1% and grew to 5.3% by Sunday. On May 25, just about three weeks ago, the positive rate was 4.3%. In all, 267,713 people in the state have been tested for COVID-19.