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.
The Utah Department of Health on Wednesday reported 7,247 new coronavirus cases — the most cases ever reported in a single day throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
And even that number is likely an undercount, state epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen told reporters in a conversation over Zoom, as people are using at-home tests more often.
“Omicron has changed the landscape since its arrival last month,” the state health department said in a statement, referring to the rapidly spreading coronavirus variant. “The number of cases we are reporting today is more than the total number of cases we reported over the first 68 days of the pandemic, combined.”
Previously, Utah’s single-day record of new cases fell on Dec. 30, 2020, when 4,706 new coronavirus cases were reported. That’s 2,541 fewer cases than reported Wednesday. [Update: Utah broke this new record again Thursday.]
“We have the tools to combat omicron,” the department’s statement said, “but they don’t work if people won’t use them.”
Nolen urged Utahns who have put off getting vaccinated or receiving booster shots to act.
“Our hospitals are already stretched well beyond their capacity and are canceling procedures. Please, go get your shot!” Nolen said in a statement released before the news conference. “Think about your plans and minimize your exposure to others and when you can’t, put on that mask!”
The department on Wednesday also confirmed 44 more COVID-19 deaths. Twenty-three of those deaths occurred before Dec. 1 and only recently were confirmed to have been caused by the coronavirus after further testing. The remainder — 21 deaths — were reported in the last day.
Nolen said she doesn’t believe the high number of deaths reported Wednesday were tied to the spread of the omicron variant.
“They’re probably more from the delta virus,” Nolen said on Zoom. “I can’t say that none of them were, but I don’t think we’re really seeing deaths from omicron yet.”
While case counts are useful to understand trends in how rapidly COVID-19 is spreading in Utah, Nolen said, “we need to really focus on hospitals” to “tell us what the real impact in our society is.”
UDOH reported Wednesday that 91.3% of all ICU beds in Utah, and 94.3% of ICU beds in larger medical centers throughout the state, are occupied. (Hospitals consider any figure over 85% to be functionally full.) Of all ICU patients, 38% are being treated for COVID-19.
“Vaccinations and boosters have been shown to reduce cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” the department advised. “They are the most important thing you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.”
The number of children getting vaccinated continues to climb: 98,751 children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose since they became eligible. That is 27.1% of kids that age in Utah, according to the health department. And 66,790 of those kids have been fully vaccinated — 18.3% of that age group.
Find where to get tested at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-covid-19-testing-locations.
Find where to get vaccinated at coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution.
Vaccine doses administered in the past day/total doses administered • 12,143 / 4,589,082.
Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,908,850 — 58.3% of Utah’s total population. That is an increase of 2,392 in the past day.
Cases reported in the past day • 7,247.
Cases among school-age children • Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 973 of the new cases announced Wednesday — 13.4% of the total. There were 361 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 193 cases in children 11-13; and 419 cases in children 14-18.
[Read more: Will Utah see a surge of COVID-19 cases in schools?]
Vaccination status • Health officials do not immediately have or release the vaccination status of individuals who test positive, who are hospitalized, or who die. They do calculate the overall risk ratios of these outcomes depending on vaccination status, which is listed below.
Tests reported in the past day • 19,906 people were tested for the first time. A total of 37,578 people were tested.
Deaths reported in the past day • 44. (UDOH did not indicate in its breakdown which deaths occurred before Dec. 1 and which were reported in the past day.)
There were 35 deaths in Salt Lake County — a man and two women between the ages of 25-44; seven men and six women 45-64; one man and four women 65-84; and 11 men and three women 85 or older.
Utah County reported five deaths — two men 25-44; and two men and a woman 65-84.
There were two deaths in Davis County — a woman 25-44; and a man 65-84. A Tooele County man 45-64 and a Weber County man 65-84 also died.
Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 495. That is 16 more than reported on Tuesday. Of those currently hospitalized, 181 are in intensive care — three more than were reported on Tuesday.
Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 36.4% in the past day. That is higher than the seven-day average of 23.9%.
The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Wednesday’s rate was 19.3%, higher than the seven-day average of 15.5%.
Risk ratios • In the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 16.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a Utah Department of Health analysis. The unvaccinated also were 9.2 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 2.7 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.
Totals to date • 663,654 cases; 3,855 deaths; 27,938 hospitalizations; 4,333,322 people tested.