Utah’s COVID-19 infections high again Friday, with 727 new cases

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign with health guidelines in downtown Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 16, 2020, as the city remained in the moderate-risk (orange) phase for COVID-19.

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Friday brought another large number of new coronavirus cases in Utah, with 727 infections reported one day after reporting lags produced the largest single-day jump in new cases on Thursday.

Hospitalizations also continued to rise, with 28 new admissions reported on Friday. That brings the 14-day total to 455, the highest of any two-week period since the pandemic began.

There were 198 Utahns hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Friday, the Utah Department of Health reported. For the past seven days, Utah hospitals have been caring for an average of 199 coronavirus patients each day, the highest weeklong average since the beginning of the pandemic.

There was one new death reported on Friday: a Weber County man, between age 65 and 84, who was hospitalized when he died.

Despite Thursday’s large jump, some parts of Utah saw an even larger increase in the number of cases on Friday. Tooele County and the Tri-County health district of Uintah, Daggett and Duchesne counties reported their largest-ever single-day jumps Friday.

Meanwhile, Utah County and the Southwest Utah and Weber-Morgan health departments posted their highest single-day increases, other than Thursday’s abnormal counts.

Thursday’s case numbers were elevated because of a digital reporting error that delayed tallies of several previously identified cases, as well as the inclusion of cases diagnosed by antigen tests.

But in Salt Lake County, long the state’s worst hot spot for the virus, cases continued to decline sharply.

“In recent days, Salt Lake County cases have been a lower share of the state’s total cases; while we used to consistently be 45–50% of the state’s cases, we are now around 35% most days,” said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department.

On Friday, the county released data that showed average new cases for the past week were at 210 — the lowest since June 18. That average has been declining since about July 1 — a few days after Gov. Gary Herbert approved a mask order for the county.

“We don’t have data that shows face coverings are the definitive reason for our recent improvement (as compared to other interventions like social distancing), but it’s certainly possible the face covering requirement is having a positive effect on Salt Lake County case counts, especially compared to what we’re seeing in the rest of the state,” Rupp said.

Per capita, Salt Lake County’s new cases for the past week were below Davis, San Juan, Washington, Kane, and Weber counties, according to figures provided by Utah’s local health districts.

Statewide, the seven-day average for new cases was at 599 on Friday, down from Thursday’s average of 619. For the past week, 10.3% of coronavirus tests in Utah came back positive.

Of 32,572 Utahns who have tested positive for coronavirus, 19,862 are considered “recovered” — that is, they have survived for at least three weeks after being diagnosed.

Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.