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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Utah and a Salt Lake County teenager dying of the virus this week, Intermountain Healthcare doctors are urging people to be careful over the long holiday weekend.
“Going into Labor Day with ... people getting together, gathering, doing activities that put us in proximity with our family and neighbors, just remember that we need to protect our neighbors,” said Dr. Peter Crossno, a critical care and pulmonary physician at Intermountain Medical Center.
There were 1,635 new cases reported on Friday, according to the Utah Department of Health, the third day in a row that number has exceeded 1,600. There have been just over 5,000 new cases in the past three days alone.
And the rolling seven-day average of new cases rose to 1,365 — the highest that number has been since Feb. 1.
Crossno gave this advice during a virtual press conference Thursday, where he discussed treating Thomas Kearl, a 59-year-old man from Salt Lake City who spent 223 days in the hospital sick with COVID-19.
“We know that masks work to minimize the spread of the disease” and protect the people around you, Crossno said. “We know that the vaccines work to minimize the severity of this illness and potentially prevent it, in some cases.”
“Be aware. Take reasonable precautions,” said Dr. John Frampton, a physician in physical medicine and rehabilitation with Intermountain Healthcare, who also spoke Thursday.
The teenager who died this week was unvaccinated and had no underlying conditions, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department. A third of the new cases announced Friday — 453 — were among kids in grades K-12. There were 163 cases in children ages 5-10; 122 cases in children 11-13; and 168 cases in children 14-18.
“If you have the opportunity and you can get the vaccine, please get vaccinated,” Frampton said. “The more that we can keep people out of the hospital and prevent more stories like Thom, it will keep a finite resource more available for those who truly are needing it.”
He added, “I just ask that everybody do their part to minimize as much spread and exposure as possible.”
In the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 4.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a UDOH analysis. The unvaccinated were also 5.7 times more likely to be hospitalized, and five times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.
With intensive care units again over capacity in Utah, “it’s hard” for medical providers, according to Crossno.
“We talk about being tired, but we’re sad,” Crossno said. “I think we’ve seen so much misery. We’ve had multiple family members in the ICU, and some didn’t survive.”
“You get almost a paranoia about going to work,” he said. “What am I going to have to do today?” Which conversation that I’ve had over and over am I going to have with a family member?
“We are basically fighting battles in the ICU, patient to patient,” he said. “It’s like fighting hill to hill, trying to keep people alive right now.”
“That’s not sustainable at the current trajectory for our critical care team,” Crassno said.
An additional 4,331 Utahns were fully vaccinated in the past day, bringing the total to 1,591,439 — 48.6% of the state’s total population.
Vaccine doses administered in past day/total doses administered • 8,296 / 3,281,029.
Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,591,439.
Cases reported in past day • 1,635.
Deaths reported in past day • Six.
There were two deaths in Salt Lake County: A woman between the ages of 65-84, and a woman 85-plus.
The other deaths were a Davis County man 25-44, a Duchesne County man 65-84, a Utah County man 65-84, and a Wasatch County man 65-84.
Tests reported in past day • 13,749 people were tested for the first time. A total of 20,473 people were tested.
Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 503. That’s five more than on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 184 are in intensive care, two more than on Thursday.
Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 11.9%. That’s lower than the seven-day average of 14%.
The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Thursday’s rate was 8%, lower than the seven-day average of 10.3%.
[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]
Totals to date • 469,429 cases; 2.658 deaths; 20,394 hospitalizations; 3,179,116 people tested.
According to the UDOH, Utah has seen 11,194 “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 — people who contracted the virus two weeks or more after being fully vaccinated. That’s 0.07% of people who are fully vaccinated.
Of that number, 611 people required hospitalization — 0.038% of those fully vaccinated. And there have been 58 deaths — 0.0036% of those fully vaccinated.