Utah surpasses half a million coronavirus cases since pandemic began

More than 90% of COVID-19 deaths at Intermountain Healthcare hospitals are among the unvaccinated.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Nurse Ashley Hafer fills syringes with the Moderna vaccine for people lined up on Thursday, March 18, 2021, as the Utah Film Studios loans its space to the Summit County Health Department as a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination station.

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There have been more than 500,000 coronavirus cases in Utah since the start of the pandemic, the Utah Department of Health announced Friday.

There were 1,672 new cases reported in the past day, which brought the total amount of cases recorded statewide to 500,698.

Intensive care units in Utah hospitals are at 91% of capacity. At Intermountain Healthcare, that number is between 97-100%, according to Brandon Webb, an infectious diseases physician there.

Between 80-85% of all COVID-19 patients admitted to Intermountain hospitals are unvaccinated, Webb said. More than 90% of the COVID-19 patients in Intermountain ICUs are unvaccinated, as are more than 90% of the patients on ventilators.

More than 90% of Intermountain patients who die from COVID-19 also are unvaccinated, Webb said.

“We don’t share those numbers to vaccine shame in any way,” Webb said. “But, at the same time, we want people to have the right information.”

There have been 16,237 breakthrough infections to date in Utah — less than 1% of those fully vaccinated have tested positive for the coronavirus. Among younger, healthier patients who suffer breakthrough infections, symptoms are typically “much less severe,” Webb said. Even among patients who are older or have comorbidities, “we are seeing a tremendous protective benefit to vaccination,” Webb said.

Fully vaccinated patients who suffer a breakthrough infection are 70-80% less likely to be hospitalized. And those who are hospitalized are 70-80% less likely to be placed on a ventilator or die from COVID-19.

“It’s really important to understand that the vaccines remain effective in preventing transmission. They remain protective against symptomatic disease,” Webb said. “But, most importantly, they are the most effective means for preventing hospitalization, mechanical ventilation and death.”

On Friday, the Utah Department of Health reported nine more COVID-19 deaths. Four who died were under the age of 65.

School-age children accounted for 21% of new coronavirus cases, the state Health Department announced — a total of 358. There were 148 cases in children aged 5 to 10; 96 cases in children 11 to 13; and 114 cases in children 14 to 18.

The rolling seven-day average for positive tests stands at 1,390 per day.

In the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 5.3 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a state Health Department analysis. The unvaccinated also were 7.6 times more likely to be hospitalized and 6.5 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

An additional 3,011 Utahns were fully vaccinated in the past day, bringing the total to 1,669,819 — 51% of Utah’s total population.

Vaccine doses administered in past day / total doses administered • 5,159 / 3,416,501.

Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,669,819.

Cases reported in past day • 1,672.

Deaths reported in past day • Nine.

There were four deaths in Salt Lake County — a man and a woman between the ages of 45-64, and two women 65-84.

Utah County reported two deaths — both men 45-64.

A Duchesne County woman 65-84, an Iron County woman 65-84, and a Washington County man 65-84 also died.

Tests reported in past day • 10,009 people were tested for the first time. A total of 18,359 people were tested.

Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 587. That’s 25 more than reported on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 226 are in intensive care, three more than reported on Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 16.7% over the past day. That is higher than the seven-day average of 13.6%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. The rate reported Thursday was 9.9%, the same as the seven-day average.

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

Totals to date • 500,698 cases; 2,869 deaths; 21,749 hospitalizations; 3,404,589 people tested.

Summit County has instituted an order that would mandate masks at area middle schools and junior highs if there’s a COVID-19 outbreak. It mirrors an order for elementary schools in the county and does not include high schools.

County health director Dr. Phil Bondurant issued the order, which will require face coverings if 2% of a school’s students, faculty and staff test positive for the coronavirus in a two-week period. It goes into effect on Monday and extends through the end of the year — the same as the order for elementary schools.

“This order provides another mitigation strategy intended to keep our schools open, limit the impact of potential outbreaks, and avoid test-to-stay protocols until vaccines are available later this fall,” Bondurant said.

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