Utah reports record 12,990 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

Daily cases already are surpassing conservative estimates for January.

(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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Utah reported a record 12,990 new coronavirus cases Thursday, already exceeding infection levels that epidemiologists hoped would not arrive until the end of the month.

And that high case count comes as test sites are running out of supplies and sending people away, health officials have said. The rising percent of tests coming back positive suggests the true number of infected Utahns is much higher than reported.

Before last week, the highest number of new Utah cases reported in a single day was about 4,700, announced more than a year ago, in December 2020. Utah has been averaging about 9,564 new cases a day for the past week — the highest it has been since the pandemic began. Before last week, the highest that figure had ever been was 3,392, reported in November 2020.

State health officials a week ago cited federal projections that Utah would reach 12,600 cases per day by the end of the month — but that was a “conservative” estimate, Dr. Michelle Hofmann, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health, said.

“The outside estimate is about 38,800 cases a day,” Hofmann said in a news conference last week. “We’re talking about explosive volumes of cases that overwhelm all of our systems.”

Hospitalizations also continue to climb, with 638 Utahns concurrently hospitalized with the coronavirus — the highest number of any day during the pandemic. Before this week, the highest hospital count on a single day was 606 patients, in December 2020.

At that time, more of those patients required intensive care: 213, versus the 182 patients with COVID in Utah’s ICUs as of Thursday.

But hospital staffing is tighter now than it was in 2020, Utah’s hospital administrators have said. ICUs in the state’s larger, “referral” hospitals were at 90% capacity — down from Wednesday’s 92%, but above the 85% threshold that hospital administrators have said is necessary to leave room for shifting staff levels, new patients and availability of specialized equipment and personnel.

Thursday’s newly reported COVID-19 hospitalizations included three Utah infants less than 12 months old and eight children ages 14 or younger, according to UDOH data.

The Utah Department of Health on Thursday also reported seven more COVID-19 deaths in the past day.

The number of children getting vaccinated continues to climb: 106,198 children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose since they became eligible. That is 29.1% of kids that age in Utah, according to the health department. And 74,313 of those kids have been fully vaccinated — 20.4% 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 day/total doses administered • 12,214 / 4,684,561.

Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,924,915 — 58.8% of Utah’s total population. That is an increase of 2,135 in the past day.

Cases reported in the past day • 12,990.

Cases among school-age children • Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 3,007 of the new cases announced Thursday — 23.1% of the total. There were 797 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 659 cases in children 11-13; and 1,551 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 day • 25,650 people were tested for the first time. A total of 47,418 people were tested.

Deaths reported in the past day • 7.

Utah County reported two deaths, both men: one age 25-44, and one 85 or older.

Two deaths also were reported in Davis County, both women: one age 25-44 and the other age 45-64.

The three other deaths were: a Salt Lake County woman, age 65-84; a Wasatch County man, age 65-84; and a Washington County woman, age 25-44.

Utahns currently hospitalized with COVID-19 • 638. That is 30 more than reported on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 182 are in intensive care — two more than reported on Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 50.6% in the past day. That is higher than the seven-day average of 36.5%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Thursday’s rate was 27.4%, higher than the seven-day average of 25.2%.

[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 15.2 times as likely to die of COVID-19 as vaccinated people were, according to a Utah Department of Health analysis. The unvaccinated also were 6.7 times as likely to be hospitalized, and 2.3 times as likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

— This story is developing and will be updated.