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Utah reports 10 coronavirus deaths Wednesday, with 1,575 new cases

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Pedestrians downtown 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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Ten more Utahns have died from the coronavirus — and with 1,575 new coronavirus cases reported on Wednesday, the state’s rate of new diagnoses continued to climb to a record level.

And now, after weeks of rising case numbers and hospitalizations in the state, Dr. Robert Redfield and Dr. Deborah Birx are planning a visit to Utah this week, Gov. Gary Herbert’s spokeswoman confirmed.

Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, are planning to meet with Herbert and Utah health officials Friday. The visit is part of a tour of Western states, which are reporting the nation’s highest infection rates.

For the past week, Utah has averaged 1,549 new positive test results a day, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) reported. That average is now nearly quadruple Herbert’s earlier goal to keep weeklong averages below 400 new cases per day.

Utah’s death toll from the coronavirus stood at 588 on Wednesday.

“I have been at the bedside of multiple patients of COVID-19, and been the last person that they saw, the last person to look at them in their eyes before they died,” Jocelyn Clarke, a clinical nurse at University of Utah Hospital, told NBC’s Today in a report that aired Wednesday.

“I have seen nurses walk out and say, ‘I can’t do this.’ But we have to," Clarke said. "Who else is going to do it?”

These are the 10 fatalities reported since Tuesday:

• Five Salt Lake County residents: a woman older than 85, two women ages 45 to 64, another woman and a man ages 65 to 84.

• Three Weber County residents: two women and one man ages 65 to 84.

• A Utah County woman and a Millard County man, also ages 65 to 84.

Utah twice in July reported 10 deaths in a day; a larger number of deaths — 15 — was reported on Oct. 2, but that total included earlier deaths that had taken time to investigate.
A forecast posted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paints a grim picture for Utah over the next four weeks: An estimate of between 33 and 37 deaths per week. The forecast is an “ensemble” prediction, aggregating a variety of predictive models — some optimistic, others pessimistic.

Wednesday brought the highest-yet single-day increase in hospitalizations, up 78 from Tuesday. There have been 440 Utahns hospitalized for the coronavirus in the past week — the most of any week since the pandemic began.

As of Wednesday, 299 Utah coronavirus patients were concurrently admitted, UDOH reported. Utah’s intensive care units were 70.4% occupied.

For the past week, 17.9% of all tests have come back positive — a record-high rate, indicating that a large number of infected people are not being tested, state officials have said.

While Utah County has seen significant drops in new cases since its outbreak peaked in late September, the county still has the highest number of new cases per capita of any county during the past week, with Wasatch County close behind.

And while the areas closest to Brigham Young University have nearly halved the rates of new cases since September, other parts of Utah County appear to be rising again — with northern Orem still reporting the highest infection rates in the state. Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs, western Provo, and nearly all all of the county’s area south of Provo are nearing or surpassing record-high case rates in the past week.

But the virus is spreading rapidly elsewhere in the state, with hospitalizations also rising. San Juan County reported more hospitalizations per capita in the past week, but admissions are nearly as common in Salt Lake County, which on Wednesday reported record cases and hospitalizations for the past week.

Health departments covering Central and Southwest Utah and the Tri-County area of eastern Utah reported record cases and record hospitalizations for the past week, with Davis County also reporting record hospitalizations, and record new case numbers in Summit, Wasatch, Weber and Morgan counties.

There were 7,364 new test results reported Wednesday, below the weeklong average of about 8,300 new tests per day.

In the last seven days, 1,009 cases have been reported at Utah schools, according to UDOH’s counts. On Wednesday, Bonneville High announced it will move classes online starting Thursday after an outbreak at the Washington Terrace school.

Bonneville’s shift comes one day after Granite School District’s Olympus and Taylorsville high schools announced they are going remote after exceeding 15 cases apiece.
This is the second Weber School District school to have to go online this year. Roy High returned to in-person classes Wednesday after a two-week quarantine.

A statement from the district said Bonneville is following Utah Department of Health instructions after 15 or more individuals connected with the school tested positive within the past two weeks. Multiple classrooms have been affected, it said.

The school will hold virtual classes through Nov. 11, during which time the school will undergo a deep cleaning. Only those who tested positive and the people they came in contact with will be required to quarantine.

In addition, the volleyball and football teams, which have no active cases of coronavirus, will be allowed to continue to compete. Other extracurricular activities will be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

The district site shows 70 active cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, including 54 at the secondary level.
— Reporters Sean P. Means and Julie Jag contributed to this story.
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