Utah reports 447 new COVID-19 cases, 17 more deaths as doctor warns against letting your guard down

A Utah doctor worries as he sees case counts hitting a plateau.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Siraj Ahmed, 67, receives his first free Moderna vaccination on Thursday from Salt Lake County Health Department nurse apprentice Bailey Weems. Over 120 people were scheduled to get their first shots of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines at the Utah Islamic Center in West Jordan, Mar. 18, 2021.

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Utah continues on its COVID-19 plateau, with 447 new cases reported on Friday. And an Intermountain Healthcare infectious diseases physician is concerned that Utahns are starting to let their “guard down a little bit.”

“We saw there’s a really nice ongoing trend down in our case counts,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem. “We’ve been, subsequently, plateaued. And now I think we’re starting to see a slight increase in cases.”

Utah Department of Health also reported 17 more deaths on Friday. Twelve of those occurred before Feb. 19 and were only recently confirmed to be as the result of COVID-19. Thirteen of those who died were ages 65 and older, but one was a man between the ages of 18 and 24 and another was a woman 25 to 44.

Because there’s optimism as more people receive vaccinations, Stenehjem said, “you’re starting to increase your social circles a little bit and that’s going to lead to an increase in transmissions.” And data shows that the “younger population” — the 1-14 and 15-24 age groups — have seen an uptick in cases.

“We’ve got to keep in mind that, yes, vaccinations are going really well. And it’s going faster than we expected, both at the national level and also in the state of Utah,” he said. “But we’re not there yet. We don’t have the masses vaccinated to the point that we have any kind of protection from a ‘herd immunity’ standpoint.”

[Read more: Utahns find the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine can bring harsher side effects]

Although Utah is “getting close” and it’s “a really optimistic time,” Stenehjem said, “we just have to be really, really careful not to declare victory before we’re actually at the finish line here.”

Vaccine doses administered in past day/total doses administered • 31,146 / 1,111,185.

Utahns fully vaccinated • 402,988.

Cases reported in past day • 447.

Deaths reported in past day • 17.

Salt Lake County reported six deaths: A man between the ages of 18-24; a man and three women 65-84; and a man 85-plus.

There were three deaths in Washington County: Two men and a woman 65-84.

Two Cache county residents died: A woman 25-44 and a man 85-plus. And two Davis County residents died: A man 45-64 and a man 65-84.

Four counties each reported a single death: A man 65-84 in Iron County; a man 85-plus in Tooele County; a woman 45-64 in Uintah County; and a woman 65-84 in Weber County.

Hospitalizations reported in past day • 176. That’s down 13 from Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 61 are in intensive care units — two fewer than on Thursday.

Tests reported in past day • 5,967 people were tested for the first time. A total of 15,565 people were tested.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 7.5%. That’s lower than the seven-day average of 8.3%.

Its new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Thursday’s rate is now at 2.9%, lower than the seven-day average of 4.2%.

[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]

Totals to date • 380,787 cases; 2,058 deaths; 15,241 hospitalizations; 2,320,731 people tested.