Sunday’s coronavirus-related numbers in Utah were not as egregious as those from the previous few days.
Which might be the only silver lining to what was an otherwise disastrous week in the fight against COVID-19.
The state’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases continued Sunday, with 472 new cases (up 2.3% from Saturday) and 31 new hospitalizations, according to the Utah Department of Health. There were no new deaths in the latest figures released, keeping the total at 167 for now.
There have now been 21,100 total positive cases in the state, and 1,396 hospitalizations since the coronavirus struck. There are currently 192 people hospitalized due to COVID-19. UDOH also noted that with 5,647 new tests conducted, the state has now performed 328,449 total tests. The rate of positives is at 6.4% overall.
Many troubling trends emerged in Utah over the past week.
For starters, the seven-day average of new positive cases is now at an all-time high of 519. A week ago, that figure was at 450.
Meanwhile, according to the state, the seven-day rolling average of the percentage of tests coming back positive has topped 10% for the first time.
Utah now has 9,000 active coronavirus cases, which is a new record. A week ago, the state was at 7,885 active cases.
The Beehive State is hardly alone in this regard.
Worldwide confirmed coronavirus infections hit the 10 million mark Sunday — with a quarter of those in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Global deaths were set to reach 500,000; and again, roughly 25% of those are in the U.S., which surpassed the 125,000 mark.
The U.S. also has seen surges in Florida, Texas and Arizona as those states took aggressive steps to reopen their economies. But there are others.
The recent surge in Salt Lake County was enough to prompt County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall to urge Gov. Gary Hebert to enable a mask-wearing mandate — a move he made Thursday — which requires Salt Lake County denizens to don a mask when entering and exiting restaurants, going shopping or attending community events (a similar order was issued for Summit County).
As it turns out, Salt Lake County added more than 1,500 cases and 100 hospitalizations this past week.
Still, it’s not merely relatively high-density Salt Lake County that is struggling with the coronavirus right now in Utah.
The Southwest Health District has also had a bad week, and Sunday proved to be its worst day yet. The area is now up to 1,428 positive cases and 94 hospitalizations — worrying figures considering that the hospital in St. George is raising alarms about the potential of running out of beds.
On Thursday, Herbert called the infection rate in Utah’s Hispanic communities “alarming,” and the numbers certainly bear that assessment out.
For the first time, the rate of infections for Hispanics has passed 2,000 for every 100,000 residents. By comparison, it is 295 per every 100,000 for white people.
The numbers are actually disproportionately bad for people of color in the state across the board — as the case rate per 100,000 people is at 1,637 for Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders; 872 for Black/African American people; 787 for American Indian/Alaska Natives; and 395 for Asians.
Still, the numbers have been particularly grim among Hispanic Utahns. While they make up 14.2% of Utah’s population, they now account for 43.2% of its COVID-19 cases. By comparison, whites account for 78% of the population, but 34.5% of the coronavirus cases.
For those hanging their hat on the death rate for some good news, it is true that Utah’s mortality rate of 0.79% is indeed low, and has been driven lower by the influx of new cases. However, as state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn has noted, mortality is a lagging indicator. People tend to fight the disease for days, if not weeks, before succumbing to it.
Without a “large-scale behavior change on the part of all Utahns to reverse this trend,” she warned, death counts and hospitalizations would only rise.
Given that, the “current hospitalizations” statistic will be a key number to watch. The current figure of 192 is up from 166 at the start of the week.