Utah’s coronavirus case count spikes above 2,200, with 13 more deaths

Intermountain study finds people with a certain heart condition at higher risk of hospitalization or death if they catch the coronavirus.

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More than 2,200 Utahns have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past day, and for the second day in a row, 13 more Utahns died of COVID-19, the Utah Department of Health reported Wednesday.

The Health Department reported 2,219 new coronavirus cases in the past day. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests stands at 1,674 per day.

The number of children getting vaccinated continues to climb — 41,029 children ages 5-11 have gotten a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since they became eligible; that’s about 12.4% of kids that age in Utah, according to UDOH.

The occupancy rates of the state’s intensive care units rose again to nearly full capacity. According to the health department, 96% of all ICU beds and 98.4% of ICU beds in larger medical centers are occupied. (Hospitals consider an occupancy rate above 85% to be functionally full.) Of all ICU patients, 45.2% are being treated for COVID-19.

Study finds heart rhythm condition could increase risk

A new Intermountain Healthcare study has found that people with a certain heart rhythm condition — one that affects some 12 million Americans — are at higher risk of dying or being hospitalized with serious conditions from COVID-19 if they catch the virus.

The study, which Intermountain announced in a news release Wednesday, found that COVID-19 patients with a history of atrial fibrillation — the most common form of heart arrhythmia — are more likely to need hospitalization. Those patients also are 61.5% more likely to suffer a major cardiovascular event, such as a hospitalization due to heart failure, and 40% more likely to die of COVID-19 than people who don’t have a history of atrial fibrillation.

“We often think of atrial fibrillation as more of a nuisance arrhythmia that can cause unpleasant symptoms and some negative clinical impacts, but is generally not life-threatening,” Dr. Michael J. Cutler, the study’s lead investigator and a heart rhythm specialist at Intermountain’s Heart Institute, said in a statement.

People with atrial fibrillation, Cutler said, should consider themselves in a higher-risk group when it comes to COVID-19 and should take common-sense precautions against the virus — such as getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public and social distancing where appropriate.

The study — first presented Saturday during the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions, a virtual medical conference — looked at 3,119 Intermountain patients who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 2020 and March this year, who also had a previous diagnosis of atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular, often very rapid, heart rhythm abnormality in the heart’s upper chambers. People with it often have palpitations, shortness of breath, and weakness. The condition increases a person’s risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Wednesday counts

Vaccine doses administered in the past day/total doses administered • 13,338 / 3,974,270.

Cases reported in past day • 2,219.

Cases among school-age children • Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 495 of the new cases announced Wednesday — 22.3% of the total. There were 278 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 105 cases in children 11-13; and 112 cases in children 14-17.

Tests reported in past day • 12,518 people were tested for the first time. A total of 26,152 people were tested.

Deaths reported in past day • 13.

Four Salt Lake County men were among those reported to have died: One between the ages of 45 and 65, the other three 65-84. (UDOH reported that a Salt Lake County woman, 25-44, whose death was reported Friday did not die from COVID-19, as earlier believed.)

Three Utah County residents died, according to UDOH’s report: A man 45-64, a woman 65-84, and a man 85 or older.

A young man, 18-24, from Uintah County was among the deaths reported by UDOH.

A Cache County woman, 85 or older, was among those reported to have died.

The other four deaths reported Wednesday included a Box Elder County woman 65-84; a Duchesne County man 65-84; a Piute County woman 65-84; and a Rich County man 65-84.

Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 557. That 12 fewer than reported on Tuesday. Of those currently hospitalized, 226 are in intensive care, nine more than reported on Tuesday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 17.7% over the past day. That is higher than the seven-day average of 16.6%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Tuesday’s rate was 8.5%, lower than the seven-day average of 10.9%.

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

Risk ratios • In the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 16.2 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a Utah Department of Health analysis. The unvaccinated also were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 4.3 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

Totals to date • 579,376 cases; 3,398 deaths; 25,273 hospitalizations; 3,863,416 people tested.

Change in COVID-19 data presentation

UDOH announced Wednesday it was changing the way it presents data concerning Utah’s ethnic and minority populations on its COVID-19 dashboard to more accurately reflect case counts, vaccination rates, testing numbers, hospitalizations and deaths among those groups.

The problem arose when reporting statistics for people who identify as a member of more than one ethnic group, UDOH said. In those cases, an individual’s positive COVID-19 test may have been counted in one group or the other, but in population counts, the person was counted in both groups — leading to lower calculated rates across all COVID-19 metrics for race and ethnic minority populations.

The agency now is using new definitions of race and ethnicity population that more closely align with the data collected. That correction, UDOH said, will mean the state’s racial and ethnic minorities will show higher rates of testing and vaccination, but also higher rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. For example, the vaccination rates for American Indian and Alaska natives, which used to be listed as the lowest among the state’s ethnic populations, is now shown to be the highest.

UDOH has conducted focus groups with members of minority communities, and those who participated said they feel the data more closely matches “the lived experiences in their communities,” UDOH said in a statement Wednesday.