Utah reports more than 500 more new cases of COVID-19

Intermountain Healthcare takes part in trial to test treatments for ‘the sickest of the sick’ from the virus.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) A vial of saline and the Pfizer COVID19 vaccine at the Woods Cross High School pop-up clinic by Nomi Health, April 27, 2021. County and regional health districts are setting up vaccination clinics in high schools, to get the COVID-19 vaccine to 16- and 17-year-olds.

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On the same day that Utah passed the 900,000 mark for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the state also reported 518 new cases of the coronavirus and four more deaths.

That’s the second day in a row the number of new cases has exceeded 500, and the most deaths in a single day in a month. The Utah Department of Health last reported four deaths on March 27.

Roughly 39% of eligible Utahns age 16 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, receiving either both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (That’s based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 estimate of Utah’s population.)

Vaccine doses administered in past day/total doses administered • 24,712 / 2,097,937.

Utahns fully vaccinated • 905,863.

Cases reported in past day • 518.

Deaths reported in past day • Four.

Utah County reported two deaths: A man and a woman, each between the ages of 65 and 84.

A man 65-84 died in Davis County, and a man 45-64 died in Weber County.

Tests reported in past day • 7,116 people were tested for the first time. A total of 16,703 people were tested.

Hospitalizations reported in past day • 141. That’s up four from Tuesday. Of those currently hospitalized, 59 are in intensive care units, one fewer than on Tuesday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 7.3%. That’s higher than the seven-day average of 6.4%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Wednesday’s rate was 3.1%, higher than the seven-day average of 3.4%.

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

Totals to date • 396,522 cases; 2,190 deaths; 16,129 hospitalizations; 2,545,363 people tested.

Also on Wednesday, Intermountain Healthcare announced it was taking part in a global clinical trial to investigate two drugs for people suffering the most severe respiratory illness caused by COVID-19.

The trial, part of a study by the National Institutes of Health that’s taking place at hospitals and research centers around the world, aims to test the safety and effectiveness of two drugs for people who suffer from acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS.

ARDS causes lung tissue to become severely inflamed, making it harder for patients to keep sufficient oxygen in their blood. It’s “primarily the way people die when they get COVID,” said Dr. Samuel Brown, medical director of critical care and pulmonary research at Intermountain Healthcare — and a principal investigator of the ACTIV-3 Critical Care study.

Between 20% and 40% of COVID-19 patients who get ARDS die from it, Brown said, and those who survive will deal with a disability from it for the rest of their lives.

While the last year of the pandemic has led doctors to many treatments for patients with COVID-19, Brown said, “We’ve had a struggle finding therapies for the sickest of the sick.”

The ACTIV-3 study is looking at two drugs: aviptadil acetate, known commercially as Zyesami, a synthetic version of a hormone which appears to have effects that protect the lungs and reduce inflammation; and the antiviral treatment remdesivir, also known as Veklury, which became controversial last fall when President Donald Trump received it while he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Patients in the trial will be randomly assigned either Zyesami, remdesivir, both, or a placebo. Brown said the trial will begin with 40 patients at a dozen sites — including Intermountain Medical Center in Murray and University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City — and, if the study is found to be safe, will expand to 80 locations.

It could take months, Brown said, to see results from the trial — particularly as the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 remains low, compared to the statistical peaks seen this winter.