Coronavirus in Utah: Cases dip under 1,000, but the current spike continues

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The recent coronavirus spike in Utah isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, but it did see a slight decrease in case numbers Sunday after two consecutive days of more than 1,000 cases reported per day.

On Sunday, the Utah Department of Health reported 920 new cases.

The spike started at the end of last week, as cases jumped to 656 on Sept. 11 (310 more cases than the day before), but took a sharp turn over the past seven days.

The state’s rolling seven-day average for new cases — the metric public health officials use to gauge trends — is at 835 cases per day. The average for the seven days before that was 454 per day.

The rolling seven-day rate of positive test results is at 13.1% — the sixth day in a row that statistic has set a record. An additional 6,215 tests were processed since Saturday.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn has said a 3% positivity rate would indicate the virus is under control.

On Wednesday, when it became clear the state was seeing an upward trend, Dunn said it was “time to reiterate the importance of people taking these preventive measures. By wearing masks, physically distancing, and staying home if we are sick, we can prevent unnecessary death and illness.”

The current spike, which is worse than the one Utah endured in July, has state officials and leaders, ranging from Gov. Gary Herbert to Utah and Salt Lake counties, considering what new restrictions to put in place. Action could be taken as early as Monday.

Following Friday’s report, in which Herbert called the increase in cases “alarming,” the governor urged people to consider the common public good when making daily decisions, adding there’s no room for “lackadaisical behavior.”

“This week’s spikes make me seriously question if these warnings and public education are enough,” Herbert said on Friday. “I will meet with the Unified Command leadership again Monday to discuss needed interventions. I’d like to emphasize that all of the tools that government has for controlling the spread of COVID-19 are on the table. We are seriously considering each one of them.”

While the death count hasn’t seen a major spike (no new deaths were reported Sunday), health officials say that could increase in the weeks to come as the outbreak continues.

The current spike started in the 15-24 age group. The high school and college-aged group started seeing a huge increase in cases on Sept. 10. Of Sunday’s 920 new cases, 356 were among the 15-24 age group.

The 25-44 age group accounted for 257 cases, while the 45-66 age group saw an increase of 188 cases.

Just one more case was linked to a school outbreak on Sunday, but the past seven days saw 25 more outbreaks, for an added 241 cases. The median age of those infected is 16.