Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing free access to critical stories about the coronavirus. Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter, sent to your inbox every weekday morning. To support journalism like this, please donate or become a subscriber.
For the second day in a row, Utah set a new record for daily increases in confirmed coronavirus cases — a “real and dramatic rise in the spread” that now threatens to overwhelm hospitals, the state health officials warned on Saturday.
The state reported 643 new cases on Saturday, surpassing Friday’s record increase of 586.
“These numbers are sobering,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn wrote in a prepared statement. “For three straight weeks now our cases have been increasing at a rate that isn’t sustainable. We are at risk for overwhelming our hospital capacity, which could result in Utahns not getting the medical care they need.”
There were 152 coronavirus patients hospitalized in Utah as of Saturday, up three patients from Friday, the Utah Department of Health reported. In total, 1,161 Utahns have been hospitalized, with 16 new patients reported since Friday.
The spike in cases does not appear to be tied to any one outbreak, with Salt Lake, Davis, Tooele and Utah counties and the Southwest Utah Health District all posting their highest seven-day increases yet, according to the state’s data.
“The only explanation for this increase in cases is that we are experiencing a real and a dramatic rise in the spread of COVID-19 across our state,” Dunn wrote. “The public health response to this pandemic has not eased up, and we are asking individuals not to ease their own response as well. ... As they engage more with the economy, Utah residents must do their part by limiting their number of close contacts through good physical distancing, wearing a mask when physical distancing is not possible, staying home if you’re sick, and washing your hands regularly.”
There have been 17,068 patients diagnosed with the coronavirus in total, of 292,877 tests processed, the state reported. The new diagnoses come from 5,519 test results reported since Friday.
For the past week, 10% of tests reported to the state were positive — the highest rate of any seven-day period since the first two weeks of Utah’s outbreak, when testing was extremely restricted.
No new deaths in Utah were reported on Saturday; since the beginning of the pandemic, 155 Utahns have died from COVID-19.
Of those who have been diagnosed, 9,390 are considered “recovered” — that is, they have survived for three weeks after being diagnosed.