Utah reports another record high number of new coronavirus cases, with 1,411 on Friday

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Most of the visitors wore masks as they shopped the Farmers Market at Orem City Park, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020.

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With 1,411 new coronavirus cases reported on Friday, Utah set yet another new record for new infections in a single day.

“Unfortunately, today we also see a record number of new cases being reported, which has primarily been driven by an increase of cases among young people," officials with the Utah Department of Health wrote in a news statement. "We expect these increases will also spill over to other age groups, and the data indicates this is starting to happen.”

For the past seven days, Utah has averaged 960 new positive test results per day, UDOH reported on Friday, a key figure that has been rising steadily.

Multiple health measures continued to fall short of the goals listed on the state’s “response scoreboard” tied to Gov. Gary Herbert’s most recent “accountability” plan. The goals include keeping weeklong averages to fewer than 400 new cases per day — a target Utah met for a few weeks starting in mid-August.

The state’s key metric under Herbert’s plan — a coronavirus death rate of less than 1% — was at 0.69%, possibly kept down by the large numbers of new cases among young and lower-risk patients.

Since late August, the rate of new cases among patients ages 15 to 24 has more than tripled, from 98 new cases per day to 342 new cases per day as of Friday. During the first week of September, the age group overtook 25- to 44-year-olds as Utah’s biggest contributor of new cases, despite comprising a far smaller portion of the state’s population.

Utah’s death toll from the coronavirus stood at 448 on Friday, with four fatalities reported since Thursday:

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

  • An Iron County woman, age 65 to 84, who died in a hospital.

  • A Salt Lake County woman, older than 85, who lived in long-term care facility.

  • A Washington County man, age 65 to 84, who lived in a long-term care facility.

The virus continued to spread quickly in Utah County, which recorded 530 new cases Friday. For the past seven days, Utah County has averaged more than 64 new cases a day per 100,000 people, compared to a statewide average of 30 and a Salt Lake County average of 31.

Brigham Young University, which has experienced the worst campus outbreak since fall term began, reported 1,226 cases as of Thursday, up from 1,181 as of Wednesday.

Although Herbert has said he raised the restriction levels in Provo and Orem due to elevated cases in those two cities, county data shows many other cities in Utah County are recording similarly high numbers.

As of Friday, Provo was averaging 99 new cases daily per 100,000 residents — lower than Vineyard’s rate of 124. And with a rate of 74 cases per 100,000 people, Orem recorded a lower prevalence of the virus than did Lindon, with a rate of 88.

Meanwhile, Herbert has said Provo and Orem must drop to fewer than 35 cases per 100,000 residents to lower their restrictions — a threshold that Pleasant Grove, Springville, Cedar Hills, Alpine, Lehi, Saratoga Springs, American Fork, Highland, Mapleton and Eagle Mountain also exceeded as of Friday.

State reports, which track data using different boundaries from the county data, show the worst infection rates in the Provo neighborhoods east of city center, where 147 residents per 100,000 are being infected daily.

Utah County officials implemented a mask order this week.

Although Salt Lake County reported fewer cases per capita than Utah County, it posted its worst single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic, with 585 new infections recorded Friday.

Infections were far more prevalent in Draper than anywhere else in the county, with a seven-day average of 63 daily cases per 100,000 people, according to state data. Other areas averaging more than 35 daily cases per 100,000 residents were: Salt Lake City’s Glendale and downtown, Sandy’s eastern neighborhoods, South Salt Lake, Midvale, Copperton, and West Jordan’s western and northeastern neighborhoods.

Hospitalizations statewide held steady on Friday, with 184 Utah patients concurrently admitted, UDOH reported. On average, 161 patients have been receiving treatment in Utah hospitals each day for the past week — continuing a rise that began about two weeks after cases began to spike in early September.

Utah’s intensive care units were 67.7% occupied as of Friday, meeting the state’s goal of less than 85% occupancy.

In total, 3,668 patients have been hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, up 49 from Thursday — a tie for the biggest one-day increase in hospitalizations for the coronavirus.

The rate of tests with positive results was at 14% on Friday, down slightly from Thursday’s 14.2%. State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn has said the higher the percent of positive tests becomes, the likelier it is that a growing number of infected patients are going untested. She has said a 3% positivity rate would indicate the virus is under control.

There were 10,242 new test results reported on Friday, the largest number in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Testing is a critical component of our response and helps us understand the spread of the virus in our communities," UDOH officials said in their statement. "With more than 70 testing locations operating across the state, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 can and should get tested. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, or a decrease in the sense of taste or smell.”

Testing demand has been rising for about two weeks and now is on par with 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 94 outbreaks in schools, affecting 726 patients, with one new outbreak and 44 new cases reported in the past day. Fourteen of those patients have been hospitalized, up one from Thursday; none has died.

A third high school in the Jordan School District now has 15 or more active cases, according to a new dashboard published by the district. Mountain Ridge High had 15 cases as of Friday, with 19 at Copper Hills High and 21 at Riverton High. None of the Jordan District schools has followed state recommendations to close for at least two weeks upon reaching 15 cases.

Meanwhile, in the Canyons District, Jordan High School on Friday surpassed 15 active cases, and new cases put Draper Park Middle School back over 15 after it closed earlier this week; there were 17 active cases at the school as of Thursday night.

As of Friday, the district had 300 cases since the beginning of the pandemic — the most of any district in Salt Lake County, and three high schools have closed so far. The district initially kept Corner Canyon High School open on a hybrid schedule of online and in-person classes, despite more than 15 active cases in an outbreak that began earlier this month. But last week, after a popular teacher was hospitalized for COVID-19, the district moved Corner Canyon, as well as Alta and Brighton high schools, to online-only classes.

Granite School District, which closed two high schools this week due to outbreaks, had not updated its case numbers since Monday. County data showed 158 cases in the district, up from 156 on Thursday.

Utah’s colleges and universities also reported rising numbers of cases. The University of Utah reported 364 cases as of Friday, up from 335 on Thursday. Utah State University confirmed 377 cases as of Friday, up from 346 on Thursday. Dixie State University reported 32 fall cases as of Wednesday, up from 16 the week before. Weber State reported 66 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, up from 54 cases a week earlier. Utah Valley universities had not updated case numbers for several days.