Utah COVID deaths remain high and ICUs are getting more crowded — but cases continue to drop

More Utahns are hospitalized with the coronavirus than at any time before January.

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.

Utah reported 1,791 new positive COVID-19 tests Friday, continuing a decline in cases. But the number of new coronavirus deaths that medical examiners are confirming remains in the double digits each day, as January’s surge from the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus continues to exact a toll.

Testing volumes remain significantly lower this week than last, as health officials have discontinued rapid testing at state-sponsored sites after discovering the test they were using was producing false negative results. Utah has averaged about 14,000 tests per day since Monday, compared with an average 20,000 tests per day last week.

The Utah Department of Health reported an average 1,811 new cases a day during the past week — slightly below Thursday and well below January’s peak weekly average of about 11,000 daily cases.

Hospitalizations declined Friday, but remained higher than at any time during the pandemic before January’s spike. There were 634 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, down 16 from Thursday but higher than the record before January — 606, in December 2020. State officials last month announced that a data error had caused inaccuracies in hospital counts for months, significantly undercounting them in January.

Medical examiners confirmed 11 new deaths in Utah that resulted from COVID-19 infections. There have been 4,261 deaths from COVID-19 in Utah since the pandemic began.

As of Friday, there were 158 COVID patients in intensive care units throughout the state, up one from Thursday. ICUs in the state’s larger “referral” hospitals were at 90.7% capacity, once again 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. ICUs in those larger hospitals have surpassed 85% occupancy almost continuously since late August.

Statewide, 86.9% of all ICU beds were filled as of Friday.

According to state data, 60.5% of Utahns were fully vaccinated as of Friday. However, researchers have found that a booster is crucial to prevent serious illness — and just 25.9% of all Utahns have received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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 • 5,361 / 4,889,214.

Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,964,481 — 60.5% of Utah’s total population. That is an increase of 1,508 in the past day.

Cases reported in the past day • 1,791.

Vaccination status • Health officials do not immediately have to 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 • A total of 13,992 people were tested.

Deaths reported in the past day • 11.

Four Salt Lake County residents died: a woman and a man ages 65-84 and a woman and a man older than 84.

A Washington County man and woman, both older than 84, also died.

Utah County reported two deaths: a woman age 65-84 and a man older than 84. Two Cache County men died, one age 45-64 and the other older than 84.

A Duchesne County man age 45-64 also died.

Utahns currently hospitalized with COVID-19 • 634. That is 16 fewer than reported on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 158 are in intensive care — one more than Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate was 32.4% for the past day. That is slightly lower than the seven-day average of 32.8%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Thursday’s rate was 12.8%, lower than the seven-day average of 19.1%.

[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 8.7 times as likely to die of COVID-19 as vaccinated people were, according to a Utah Department of Health analysis. The unvaccinated also were 4.5 times as likely to be hospitalized, and 2.4 times as likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

Totals to date • 910,900 cases; 4,261 deaths; 32,376 hospitalizations; 9,073,427 tests administered.