Utah reports 346 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hogle Zoo maintains social distancing practices, encourages guests to wear masks and limits the number of visitors as precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

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.

With 346 new coronavirus cases reported on Thursday, Utah’s rate of new diagnoses dropped back below the governor’s target of fewer than 400 cases per day.

For the past seven days, Utah has averaged 381 new positive test results per day, the Utah Department of Health reported on Thursday. Gov. Gary Herbert had said he wanted the state to get below 400 new cases per day by Sept. 1, a goal Utah met in mid-August but surpassed again last week.

And Carbon and Box Elder counties will now move to the minimal “green” — or lowest — level of coronavirus restrictions, Herbert announced Thursday. That shift is effective Friday.

“This doesn’t mean that the risk level’s gone down. In fact, in some instances, because you now have the ability to have more social gathering under a green condition, you might have even higher risk," he said. "So, again, a word to the wise. Be careful.” 

Meanwhile, the virus continued to spread most quickly in Utah County, which recorded 142 new cases Thursday — the most of any county in the state. For the past seven days, Utah County has averaged more than 24 new cases a day per 100,000 people, compared to 14 in Summit County and 12 in Salt Lake County. It is at the “yellow,” or low restriction, level.

Utah’s death toll from the coronavirus stood at 430 on Thursday, with three fatalities reported since Wednesday, all in long-term care facilities:

  • A Davis County man, older than 85.

  • A Salt Lake County woman, older than 85.

  • A Utah County woman, age 45 to 64.

Hospitalizations held steady on Thursday, with 118 Utah patients concurrently admitted, UDOH reported. On average, 119 patients have been receiving treatment in Utah hospitals each day for the past week, continuing a decline from the peak average of 211 patients hospitalized each day at the end of July.

In total, 3,273 patients have been hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, up 10 from Wednesday.

The rate of tests with positive results was at 9.1% on Thursday, the same rate reported Wednesday. 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 5,225 new test results reported on Thursday, above the weeklong average of 4,301 new tests per day. Testing demand has been rising in the past week or so but remains far below mid-July, when the state was reporting more than 7,000 new test results per day, on average.

Since public schools began opening on Aug. 13, there have been 29 outbreaks in schools, affecting 148 patients, with one new outbreak and seven new cases reported in the past day, according to UDOH.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 193 patients infected in 40 school outbreaks, with a median age of 17. Nine of those patients have been hospitalized; none have died.

Of 56,019 Utahns who have tested positive for COVID-19, 47,545 are considered “recovered” — that is, they have survived for at least three weeks after being diagnosed.