Utah’s COVID-19 death toll climbs above 4,000

On Thursday, state reports 22 more deaths and 11,608 new coronavirus cases.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Health workers with the Utah Department of Health test the public for Covid19 at the testing site in the parking lot of the Utah Public Health Laboratory building in Taylorsville Dec. 30, 2021.

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Almost exactly 22 months after the first Utahn died of COVID-19, the state’s death toll surged past 4,000. The Utah Department of Health reported 22 deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to 4,019 since the pandemic began.

“In reporting these numbers each day, hopefully we never lose sight of the fact that behind each number is a life cut short, a grieving family, grieving friends,” said UDOH director of communications Tom Hudachko. “We report these numbers every day with heavy hearts, and extend our sincere condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Also on Thursday, the Health Department reported 11,608 new coronavirus cases. That is the fourth-highest daily case count since the pandemic began, and it marked the eighth time in the past 10 days that a daily tally has exceeded 10,000 cases. (The record high was before last week was 4,706 in December 2020.)

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The rolling seven-day average of new cases declined a bit to 10,762, down 205 from Wednesday’s all-time high. Before last week, the highest that figure had ever been was 3,392, reported in November 2020.

Statewide, hospitals remain near capacity, and the number of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients — 756 — is the highest it’s been since the pandemic began. Before last week, the highest hospitalization count on a single day was 606 patients in December 2020.

There are nearly as many COVID patients in intensive care units now (207) as there were then (213). But hospital staffing is tighter now than it was in 2020, Utah hospital administrators have said.

ICUs in the state’s larger, “referral” hospitals are now at 92.7% capacity — above the 85% threshold that hospital administrators have said is necessary to leave room for unpredictable staffing levels, new patients and availability of specialized equipment and personnel. Statewide, 89.4% of all ICU beds are filled.

Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 1,974 of the new cases announced Thursday — 17% of the total. There were 747 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 494 cases in children 11-13; and 733 cases in children 14-18.

The number of children getting vaccinated continues to climb: 111,509 children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose since they became eligible. That is 30.6% of kids that age in Utah, according to the health department. And 78,413 of those kids have been fully vaccinated — 21.5% of that age group.

Due to “staffing issues brought on by the sudden and dramatic increase in the spread of COVID-19,” Salt Lake City’s Main Library has closed to in-person visits and is expected to remain closed for “a minimum of two weeks,” according to a Facebook post.

The closure “allows us to temporarily reposition staff to our branches,” which will remain open, the library’s post said. Curbside services — including holds pickup, browsing-to-go, and print services — will remain open at the Main Library. Patrons can pick up their items by parking in one of the designated parking spaces on 200 East and calling 801-594-8618. Digital audiobooks and eBooks will not be affected, and virtual events will continue as scheduled.

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 • 8,180 / 4,738,793.

Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,933,582 — 59.1% of Utah’s total population. That is an increase of 1,564 in the past day.

Cases reported in the past day • 11,608.

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 • 23,372 people were tested for the first time. A total of 50,241 people were tested.

Deaths reported in the past four days • 22.

There were eight deaths in Utah County — a woman between the ages of 25-44, two men and three women 65-84, and a man and a woman 85-plus.

Salt Lake County reported six deaths — a man 25-44, a woman 45-64, a man and two women 65-84, and a man 85-plus. And there were two deaths in Iron County — a man and a woman 65-84.

Six counties each reported a single death, and a Box Elder County man 45-64 was the youngest. All of the rest were 65 to 84: men from Cache, Davis, Uintah and Washington counties, and a woman from Weber County.

Utahns currently hospitalized with COVID-19 • 756. That is 41 more than reported on Wednesday. Of those currently hospitalized, 207 are in intensive care — 17 more than reported on Wednesday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 49.7% in the past day. That is higher than the seven-day average of 42.5%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Thursday’s rate was 23.1%, lower than the seven-day average of 29.7%.

[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 12.3 times as likely to die of COVID-19 as vaccinated people were, according to a Utah Department of Health analysis. The unvaccinated also were 5.9 times as likely to be hospitalized, and 2.3 times as likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

Totals to date • 814,388 cases; 4,019 deaths; 29,838 hospitalizations; 4,656,935 people tested.