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As Utah’s coronavirus metrics remain consistently low, the state is winding down its coronavirus response.
That means Utah will no longer provide daily reports on case counts, hospitalizations, deaths and more — information that’s been provided each day since the pandemic began two years ago.
It’s a response that’s involved tracking the approximately 928,000 coronavirus infections documented in Utah to date, and spending millions on free testing sites and vaccine centers. Many of those state-sponsored testing sites closed Thursday, with others being transferred to private companies.
Here’s what you need to know about keeping tabs on Utah’s coronavirus metrics in the latest phase of the state’s pandemic response, which officials are calling “Steady State.”
When will officials release COVID-19 information?
The Utah Department of Health will still update its coronavirus dashboard, but those updates will come weekly now, launching every Thursday. Officials likened it to how they treat other diseases, like the flu.
Because the state expects more people to use at-home COVID-19 tests when they feel ill, officials will instead focus on monitoring longer-term trends using wastewater analyses and the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
The Salt Lake County Health Department will still update its own county dashboard, which also will focus on longer-term metrics including hospitalizations, deaths, vaccination rates and outbreaks, spokesperson Nicholas Rupp said. That dashboard will update on Mondays.
Utah County will discontinue its dashboard and refer people to the state’s website. It will share summaries of its COVID-19 data Mondays on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, officials said.
Sewage data will be updated at wastewatervirus.utah.gov.
How to get tested
Most people seeking a COVID-19 test will now need to either find a private business or healthcare provider and pay for one, or use an at-home test.
The health department will keep some test kits on-hand in case there is another surge, or help people who don’t have insurance and otherwise can’t afford testing.
For information on available testing sites visit coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-covid-19-testing-locations. To order free, at-home COVID-19 tests, visit covid.gov/tests.
Those who need tests for travel can find information at coronavirus.utah.gov/travel. Such tests typically cost between $75 and $250.
What if there’s another outbreak?
The state will continue monitoring metrics that may indicate a “severe disease.”
State epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen acknowledged there will likely be future waves of COVID-19, but that alone won’t trigger a reversal. If there is a future outbreak, she said she hopes people’s vaccine immunity — or immunity from previously contracting the virus — would prevent them from getting seriously ill.
But if severely sick people begin to overwhelm hospital systems, Nolen said, “That’s where we’ll need to consider whether or not we need to restart some of these additional protections.”
Officials did not identify a specific threshold for returning to daily updates or reopening free testing centers.
The state, Salt Lake County and Utah County health departments do not anticipate a return to daily COVID-19 reporting, but officials at all three agencies said they have discussed that possibility in the event of a surge.
Nolen added that the current coronavirus strain dominating U.S. case counts — the omicron subvariant BA.2 — has been in Utah since at least January and hasn’t had a significant impact. But officials will continue monitoring its spread.
Returning to “normal”
Nolen said people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and have received a COVID-19 booster shot should feel safe.
Department of Health analyses continue to show that people who’ve been fully vaccinated and have received a booster face a significantly lower risk of being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19. Vaccines remain free and are available for everyone 5 and older.
To find information on where to get vaccinated, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution.
People who are immunocompromised, she said, do face more risk. She noted that there are now treatments available including Evusheld, a long-acting antibody treatment, that can help reduce the chances of infection.
“I do encourage them to seek out whatever protection is most appropriate for them,” Nolen said, “and I really hope people can get back to feeling secure and safe in their lives.”
For more information on the state’s COVID-19 response visit coronavirus.utah.gov/steady-state.