Utah reports five new deaths as other COVID-19 trends continue to fall

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With 263 new coronavirus cases reported on Tuesday, Utah’s rate of new diagnoses continued a five-day decline, staying well under the governor’s target of less than 400 cases per day.

For the past seven days, Utah has averaged 341 new positive test results per day, the Utah Department of Health reported on Monday. Gov. Gary Herbert had said he wanted the state to get below 400 new cases per day by Sept. 1.

The rate of tests with positive results was at 8.8% on Tuesday, down significantly from Monday’s 9.6%. State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn has said a 3% positivity rate would indicate the virus is under control.

Statewide, Utah’s rate of positive tests has been above 5% since May 25, according to UDOH data.

There were 4,721 new test results reported on Monday, above the weeklong average of 3,864 new tests per day. But testing demand has been dropping since late July, state officials and hospital administrators have said; in mid-July, the state was reporting more than 7,000 new test results per day, on average.

Hospitalizations remained down on Tuesday after a sharp decrease Monday, with 134 Utah patients concurrently admitted, UDOH reported — the lowest number since mid-June.

On average, 165 patients have been receiving treatment in Utah hospitals each day for the past week — up slightly from the beginning of this week, but below the peak average of 211 patients hospitalized a little more than two weeks ago.

In total, 2,804 patients have been hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, up 22 from Monday.

Utah’s death toll from the coronavirus stood at 369 on Tuesday, with five fatalities reported since Sunday:

  • A Salt Lake County man, age 25 to 44, who died in a hospital.

  • A Salt Lake County woman, age 45 to 64, who lived in a long-term care facility.

  • A Salt Lake County woman, age 65 to 84, who was not hospitalized when she died.

  • A Box Elder County man, older than 85, who lived in a long-term care facility.

  • A Weber County woman, age 65 to 84, who died in a hospital.

Of 47,157 Utahns who have tested positive for COVID-19, 38,555 are considered “recovered” — that is, they have survived for at least three weeks after being diagnosed.

But in a Tuesday news conference, Dr. Kirk Knowlton of the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute said the institute’s review of more than 100 studies found that the long-term effects of COVID-19 may include serious heart damage.

In one study, Knowlton said in the videoconference news briefing, nearly half of a group of recovered COVID-19 patients age 18 and older showed some sign of structural damage to the heart.

What isn’t known, Knowlton said, is how much damage is caused by the virus itself, or by the body’s immune system’s reaction to it. What also isn’t known, he said, is how long such damage may last.

“We don’t know what, in a year, that will look like, whether they will have recovered,” he said.

One form of heart damage being studied is inflammation of the heart, called myocarditis. Concerns that college athletes may suffer from myocarditis after catching COVID-19 was among the reasons the Pac-12 and Big 10 athletic conferences canceled their fall sports seasons — including football.

Knowlton’s review was published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.