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.
COVID-19 continues to tick off myriad dubious milestones. And the state of Utah continues to contribute to the problem.
As the world approaches 1 million coronavirus deaths, and the United States surpasses 7 million cases and 204,000 deaths, the Beehive State on Sunday reported its fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases.
Numbers released by the Utah Department of Health on Sunday announced 1,068 new positive cases, bringing the state’s running total to 70,615 positive cases. This ended the state’s worst week for new cases, a stretch in which Utah twice broke its single-day record. The high now stands at 1,411 cases, which happened Friday.
There were also five new deaths reported, bringing Utah’s total to 453. One was a Utah County woman older than 85, who was a long-term care facility resident. The other four were all hospitalized at the time of their deaths: Two were men from Utah County between the ages of 65 and 84; one a man from Salt Lake County between the ages of 45 and 64; and the last a man from Salt Lake County in the 25-44 age range.
There are 180 people currently hospitalized — seven fewer than were reported Saturday.
UDOH announced that 811,249 Utahns have now been tested, an increase of 6,170 from the day prior.
Data compiled by The New York Times rates Utah as the fourth-worst hot spot per capita, and the state’s numbers certainly seem to bear that out.
The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 974 per day, and the rolling seven-day average for percentage of positive laboratory tests is 13.9%.
Utah surpassed the 70,000 positive cases mark with alarming speed. It took the state just 11 days to go from 60,000 to 70,000. By comparison, Utah needed 23 days to go from 50,000 to 60,000.
And the state considers 15,961 people “unrecovered,” which means they tested positive within the past three weeks, which is also a new high for the state.
Among the biggest factors spurring the resurgence in the state are spikes among high school and college-aged Utahns and the virus’ spread in Utah and Salt Lake counties.
According to the state, the recent spike in cases is being driven in large part by the 15- to 24-year-old demographic. That group now makes up 27% of the total cases in Utah, and has the highest case rate per 100,000 people of any demographic in the state.
The surge has prompted Utah health officials to create a public awareness campaign aimed at young people — one that includes the hashtags #ronalert and #avoidtherona.
That campaign is, in large part, directed at students returning to class at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. Those students, plus the reopening of public schools, have been seen as the driving forces in a recent spike of cases in Utah County.
As a result, the Utah County Health Department, with the blessing of the County Commission, instituted a new policy mandating mask-wearing in public. That decision sparked a strong public reaction, as many residents have reacted in frustration to the more restrictive measures.
Across the United States, news of the pandemic remained discouraging.
Per The New York Times, “Over the past week, there have been an average of 42,956 cases per day, an increase of 24% from the average two weeks earlier.”
While Florida continues to see its daily rates of new cases decline, on Sunday the state became the third in the country — following Texas and California — to surpass the 700,000 mark in total cases. The Florida Department of Health reported 1,882 new cases and 10 new deaths on Sunday. That brings the state’s running totals to 700,564 cases and 14,032 deaths, respectively.
And yet, two days prior, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on bars and restaurants.
“We’re not closing anything, going forward,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to be able to host a Super Bowl in February.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Department of Health reported 2,817 new infections Saturday — its highest daily total of the pandemic, breaking the record of 2,533 new infections set Sept. 18.
Other states have set new records this weekend, as well. South Dakota reported a record 579 new cases Saturday, the same day that Montana had a daily record of 346.