Utah reports more than 24,000 new coronavirus cases over weekend

A boy between the ages of 15-17 has died of COVID-19, one of 20 deaths reported Monday.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) A steady line of vehicles filled with multiple people waiting to be tested for Covid19 are tended to by members of the Utah Department of Health at the Cannon Health Building, Dec. 27, 2021.

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More than 24,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in Utah over the weekend, the Utah Department of Health announced Monday.

There were 9,367 new cases reported Friday, 8,663 on Saturday and 6,413 on Sunday — amounting to a total of 24,443, with an average of almost 8,148 per day.

The health department advised 296 cases were removed from the total through “data quality analysis,” resulting in an adjusted total of 24,147 new cases since Friday.

Under the adjusted tally, the total number of coronavirus cases reported in Utah since the pandemic began soared past 700,000, to a total of 706,183.

Friday’s case count was down slightly from the record set on Thursday (9,469). It marked the second day in a row where more than 9,000 new cases were reported, and the third day in a row where more than new 8,500 new cases were reported.

Before last week, the highest number of new cases reported in a single day was 4,207, announced more than a year ago, on Dec. 30. 2020.

The rolling seven-day average of new positive cases continues to climb, now sitting at 7,768 — the highest it has been since the pandemic began. Before last week, the highest that figure had ever been was 3,392, reported on Nov. 22, 2020.

Death, hospitalization rates

The health department on Monday also reported 20 more COVID-19 deaths. Five deaths occurred before Dec. 10 and only recently were determined to have been caused by COVID-19, the health department advised. The remainder — 15 deaths — were reported on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

One of the deaths reported Monday was a boy between the ages of 15-17 in Weber County. He is the fifth child to die of COVID-19 in Utah since the pandemic began.

Updated figures from the Utah Department of Health also showed the number of patients concurrently hospitalized rose more sharply last week than during any other one-week period since the pandemic began.

There were 541 coronavirus patients hospitalized in Utah as of Sunday, the most recent day for which data was available. During previous spikes, Utah’s hospitals had more capacity to admit those patients.

But staffing shortages have worsened throughout the pandemic, with hospitals reporting that nurses are quitting without notice because they are afraid they cannot provide adequate care to the number of patients who are being admitted.

The extremely transmissible omicron variant has also forced hundreds of hospital employees to call out sick during the past week or so. About 1,000 employees are out sick from hospitals operated by Intermountain Health Care, Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious diseases specialist for Intermountain, said Monday. About 300 of those employees have called out sick just within the last few days.

The University of Utah hospital began delaying surgeries last week after at least 500 employees called in sick. Already-exhausted employees are being shifted around departments and volunteering for extra shifts as the number of hospitalizations rises.

“In the ICUs, it’s really unrelenting in terms of the amount of work,” Vento said.

As of Monday, 91.9% of all ICU beds in Utah are occupied, with 95.2% of ICU beds occupied in larger medical centers throughout the state, the health department reported. (Hospitals consider any figure over 85% to be functionally full.) Of all ICU patients, 38% are being treated for COVID-19.

Vento said as more employees are shifted to hospital care, outpatient staffing is stressed, too. That means Intermountain has fewer employees to administer the state’s already-scarce supply of monoclonal antibodies and other therapies for high-risk patients who contract COVID-19.

To be effective, those treatments have to begin shortly after the time of infection, Vento explained. But it takes a lot of staff to screen prospective patients — for instance, to determine whether they are high-risk enough to be eligible for such treatments, or whether they were infected recently enough, Vento said. And staff is already “spread thin” among all the health system’s short-handed departments, Vento said.

“We’re missing out on the opportunity to give them the therapies when instead the vaccine is in abundance right now,” Vento said.

The number of children getting vaccinated continues to climb: 103,394 children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose since they became eligible. That is 28.3% of kids that age in Utah, according to the health department. And 71,526 of those kids have been fully vaccinated — 19.6% of that age group.

Find where to get vaccinated at coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution.

Find where to get tested at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-covid-19-testing-locations.

Breakdown of updated figures

Vaccine doses administered in the past three days/total doses administered • 30,818 / 4,648,322.

Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,913,864 — 58.7% of Utah’s total population. That is an increase of 5,132 in the past three days.

Cases reported in the three days • 24,443.

Cases among school-age children • Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 3,849 of the new cases announced Monday — 15.7% of the total. There were 1,210 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 830 cases in children 11-13; and 1,809 cases in children 14-18.

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 three days • 56,820 people were tested for the first time. A total of 104,425 people were tested.

Deaths reported in the past three days • 19. (UDOH did not indicate in its breakdown which deaths occurred before Dec. 10.)

There were six deaths in Davis County — a man and a woman between the ages of 45-64, and two men and two women 65-84. There were also six deaths in Washington County — a man 45-64, and two men and three women 65-84.

In addition to the teenage boy, Weber County reported the death of a man 45-64. There were also two deaths reported in Salt Lake County — a woman 45-64, and a man 65-84. And two deaths in Utah County — a man and a woman 65-84.

Two other counties each reported a single death — a man 45-64 in Carbon County, and a man 65-84 in Piute County.

Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 541. That is three more than reported on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 182 are in intensive care — nine fewer than were reported on Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 43% in the past three days. That is higher than the seven-day average of 31.4%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Monday’s rate was 21.4%, higher than the seven-day average of 16.8%.

[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 16.6 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a Utah Department of Health analysis. The unvaccinated also were 7.3 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 2.4 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

Totals to date • 706,183 cases; 3,907 deaths; 28,414 hospitalizations; 4,434,010 people tested.