Utah coronavirus cases up 1,145 on Tuesday, as more schools shift online

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Downtown shoppers wear masks as they wait for the light to change on Main Street in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.

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Spikes in COVID-19 cases are forcing two Salt Lake County high schools to close their doors and switch to online-only instruction — in a district where half the high schools were already closed.

That’s on a day when Utah recorded another 1,145 cases of coronavirus, and tallied another record day for the rate of new diagnoses. For the past week, the state has averaged 1,507 new positive test results a day, the Utah Department of Health reported.

And according to UDOH’s dashboard, every small area in Utah has more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population over the last two weeks — a transmission rate that’s considered “very high.” In fact, close to 90% of Utahns live in communities with rates twice that high.

Utah’s death toll from the coronavirus stood at 578 on Tuesday, with four fatalities reported since Monday:

  • A Washington County woman, age 65 to 84.

  • A Tooele County man, age 45 to 64.

  • A Utah County man, age 45 to 64.

  • A Cache County man, age 65 to 84.

Taylorsville High School reported 19 COVID-19 cases, and will switch to online-only for two weeks starting Wednesday, said Ben Horsley, a spokesman for Granite School District.

Olympus High School is reporting it has, for the second time, 15 cases of COVID-19. Horsley said he expected Olympus will go online-only for two weeks, also beginning Wednesday.

The closures at Taylorsville and Olympus will mean six of the Granite district’s eight high schools will be under online-only rules. Cottonwood High School is set to end its two-week quarantine and resume in-person classes Wednesday. Granger High will be back to in-person classes Monday, and quarantine periods will be over Nov. 9 at Hunter and Kearns.

“It’s a reminder to the public that, yeah, we’re still living in a pandemic, and going to school in a pandemic is a privilege,” Horsley said.

Horsley blamed some of the recent outbreaks on students attending dances and other events, not sanctioned by the schools or held on school grounds, where more than 10 people attend and do not practice social distancing.

Hospitalizations held steady on Tuesday, with 296 Utah patients concurrently admitted, UDOH reported. On average, 306 patients have been receiving treatment in Utah hospitals each day for the past week — continuing a stretch of daily new record highs that has lasted for about three weeks.

There have been 786 Utahns hospitalized in the past two weeks, the most in any 14-day stretch since the pandemic began. In total, 5,169 patients have been hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, up 67 from Monday.

Utah’s intensive care units were 66.8% occupied as of Tuesday.

Salt Lake and Davis counties, as well as the Central Utah and Tri-County health departments, each reported record-high week-long hospitalizations on Tuesday. But the highest rate of hospital admissions per capita was in San Juan County, where opposition to public health recommendations has prompted a Blanding cafe operator to ban customers from wearing masks.

As of Tuesday, the Blanding-Monticello area had the ninth highest two-week case count per capita of all 98 “small areas” state officials use to measure local health trends.

For the past week, 17.4% of all tests have come back positive — continuing a two-week streak of a new daily records. Health officials have said the high positivity rate indicates a large number of infected people are not being tested.

There were 7,439 new test results reported on Tuesday, below the weeklong average of about 8,325 new tests per day.

The worst local infection rates still were in Provo and Orem, where cases began surging among college-age adults shortly large parties heralded the beginning of all term at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University.

But cases were surging statewide, with Wasatch County now averaging more cases per capita than Utah or Salt Lake counties. Wasatch and Summit counties, as well as health districts covering Central, Southeast and Southwest Utah and the Tri-County area of eastern Utah, all reported record-high numbers of new cases in the past week.