Coronavirus in Utah: State sees deadliest week so far, as officials report 629 new cases, 3 more deaths

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Pedestrians wear masks as they walk on Main Street in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is not getting any better in the state of Utah. In fact, going by nothing but the raw data, the situation has never been worse.

The Utah Department of Health reported 629 new cases on Sunday, capping the state’s deadliest week since the pandemic arrived in the state in mid-March. For the seven-day period from July 6 to July 12, 4,532 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 29,484, the first time the total number has eclipsed 29,000.

That means the state’s seven-day rolling average has jumped to 664 new cases per day as of Sunday.

Sunday’s 629 new cases marked the 10th time in 11 days that new cases reached at least 500. Conversely, Sunday also marked a second consecutive day of drops in new cases after a single-day record of 867 cases were reported on Friday.

Maybe more importantly, deaths are up statewide. Sunday brought three new deaths, leaving the total for July 6 through July 12 at 31. Utah had not seen that many deaths in one week since the period from June 15 to June 21 totaled 19. The total number of deaths in the state now stands at 215.

The death toll has also risen each day since July 5, while Utah eclipsed 200 for the first time on Wednesday, when seven new deaths brought the total to 201.

Of the three deaths reported Sunday, one was a female Salt Lake County resident between the ages of 45 and 64, who was not hospitalized at the time of death. The other two were a Utah County male between 25 and 44, who was hospitalized at the time of death, and a Garfield County female between 65 and 84, who was hospitalized at the time of death.

Utah’s 209 active hospitalizations through Sunday marks a new high, though the number of ICU patients across the state remains at 84. Utah’s number of active cases is estimated to be 11,966 as of Sunday, another new high.

Among the state’s health districts, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties all saw big increases, as did Southwest, which includes St. George.

Salt Lake County, the state’s most densely populated, continues to be the state leader in COVID-19 cases. Of the 629 cases reported on Sunday, Salt Lake County was responsible for 43.4%, or 273 of them.

From July 6 through July 12, Salt Lake County reported 2,069 cases, which accounts for 45.7% of the state’s 4,532 reported cases during that time period.

Everything related to COVID-19 last week took place against the backdrop of the ongoing debate over the usage of face masks statewide.

With positive tests rising last week, Gov. Gary Herbert faced additional pressure to issue a statewide mask mandate, but on Thursday he mandated face coverings in all K-12 schools instead.

The mask mandate applies to everyone, including teachers, students, staff and visitors in a school building or on a school bus in all 41 of the state’s school districts and public charters. The new school year will begin next month.

As for a statewide mandate, Herbert balked, saying, “At this time, I choose not to make this a [statewide] mandate.”

Instead, Herbert challenged Utahns to reduce the seven-day rolling average of new cases to below 500 by Aug. 1. At the time, Utah’s average was 583.7 new cases per day, a figure that has risen by 12.8%.