Eleven more Utahns die of COVID-19, including a woman between the ages of 18-24

State health officials estimate the omicron variant is causing ‘at least 30%’ of current cases.

(Jud Burkett | Special to the Tribune) The sun sets over Intermountain Healthcare's St. George Regional Hospital Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing free access to critical stories about the coronavirus. Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter, sent to your inbox every morning. To support journalism like this, please donate or become a subscriber.

On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 11 more deaths as the result of COVID-19 — including a Utah County woman between the ages of 18 and 24. A total of 22 Utahns ages 15-24 have died since the pandemic began.

According to UDOH, two of the deaths reported Wednesday occurred before Dec. 1 and were only recently confirmed to have been caused by the coronavirus.

The Health Department also reported 1,406 new coronavirus cases in the past day. The rolling seven-day average of new cases stands at 981.

And the omicron variant is spreading. The health department released a statement that said, “while our public dashboard only shows seven confirmed cases of omicron, it’s very likely that we have far more cases of omicron in the state based on what we know about this variant right now.”

UDOH estimates that “at least 30%” of the cases in Utah now are omicron. That’s based on PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction) conducted at Intermountain Healthcare using the Thermo Fisher TaqPath, which can detect possible omicron cases when the PCR test is conducted. Of 813 positive tests conducted on Dec. 20, 175 were conducted by Intermountain — and 34% of those indicated the omicron variant.

The number of children getting vaccinated continues to climb: 90,005 children ages 5-11 have gotten at least one dose since they became eligible. That’s 24.7% of kids that age in Utah, according to the health department. And 56,096 of those kids have been fully vaccinated — 15.4% of that age group.

Intensive care units in the state remain near capacity. UDOH reported Tuesday that 94.4% of all ICU beds in Utah and 98% of ICU beds in larger medical centers in the state are occupied. (Hospitals consider any figure over 85% to be functionally full.) Of all ICU patients, 36.6% are being treated for COVID-19.

St. George hospital’s ICU is at 106% capacity

One of southern Utah’s largest hospitals is beyond full because of the current surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations, the facility’s medical director said Wednesday.

Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital is at 106% capacity and its intensive care unit is at 125% capacity, said Dr. Patrick Carroll, the hospital’s medical director, during a COVID-19 community briefing over Facebook Live. That means more people are being treated than the hospital has beds that it is licensed for; he noted that the hospital has been given a waiver to accommodate the overflow legally.

About half the hospital’s ICU patients are being treated for COVID-19, Carroll said. Until the pandemic, he said, “We’ve never in the history of our hospital seen that number of patients with a single diagnosis.”

Carroll said that about 85% of the COVID-19 patients in his hospital are not vaccinated, echoing similar figures in other Intermountain hospitals. Those who are vaccinated who end up in ICU or on a ventilator, he said, tend to be either immunocompromised or older than 65 or both.

According to UDOH’s data dashboard, only 48.45% of St. George’s population is fully vaccinated — lower than the 58% of the state’s population. (This includes children 4 and under, who are not eligible for any vaccine.)

Carroll said he “would love for our community to have a higher rate of vaccination,” but he declined to criticize his St. George neighbors who have not received the jab. ”I believe that each individual, and our communities, are doing the best they can to seek out information and use that information to make the decision they feel is the right decision for them,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have seen significant amounts of misinformation. So when people make a decision not to be vaccinated, sometimes that’s based on misinformation. Nonetheless, they’re still doing the best they can.”

Carroll praised the resiliency of health care workers who will be working through the Christmas holiday. “It’s a family,” he said. “They support each other — whether that’s a potluck, whether that’s a gift exchange, whether that’s just sharing joy and cheer among each other, they come together and support one another during the holidays.”

Daily numbers

Vaccine doses administered in the past day/total doses administered • 16,694 / 4,465,357.

Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,886,360 — 57.7% of Utah’s total population. That is an increase of 5,508 in the past day.

Vaccination status: Health officials do not immediately have or release the vaccination status of individuals who test positive, are hospitalized or die. They do calculate the overall risk ratios of these outcomes depending on vaccination status, which you can see below.

Cases reported in the past day • 1,406.

Cases among school-age children • Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 167 of the new cases announced Wednesday — 11.9% of the total. There were 72 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 44 cases in children 11-13; and 51 cases in children 14-18.

Tests reported in past day • 10,444 people were tested for the first time. A total of 20,001 people were tested.

Deaths reported in past day • 11.

Four Salt Lake County residents died: A man and a woman 25-44, and two women 65-84.

There were also four deaths in Utah County. In addition to the woman who was 18-24, a woman 25-44, a man 45-64, and a man 85-plus died.

Two Washington County women and an Iron County man, all 65-84, also died.

Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 457. That is 13 more than reported on Tuesday. Of those currently hospitalized, 180 are in intensive care — two fewer than reported on Tuesday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 13.5% in the past day. That is higher than the seven-day average of 11.6%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Wednesday’s rate was 7%, lower than the seven-day average of 8%.

[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 16.4 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a Utah Department of Health analysis. The unvaccinated also were 9.6 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 3.7 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

Totals to date • 622,414 cases; 3,749 deaths; 27,140 hospitalizations; 4,163,884 people tested.