As the highly contagious omicron variant spreads rapidly throughout the state, Utah now ranks fourth in the country in average daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, according to the Washington Post’s COVID-19 tracker.
The Beehive State’s daily average over the last week is 304 cases per 100,00 people, the tracker showed on Friday – a 52% increase in the last seven days.
Only Rhode Island, Delaware and New York topped Utah’s average daily case count, which was tied with California.
Among total cases per 100,000 people, Utah also ranks fourth in the U.S., with 23,404 reported cases per 100,000 people, behind Rhode Island, North Dakota and Alaska.
The surge, which is unprecedented in Utah, has overwhelmed hospitals and schools. On Friday, state leaders asked most Utahns not to seek COVID-19 testing if they’re exhibiting symptoms in order to preserve coronavirus tests. Instead, they recommend Utahns assume they have the virus, stay home and isolate.
Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Friday expressed optimism that the pandemic was headed towards an endemic phase. Endemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is when a disease reaches a “constant presence and/or usual prevalence” in a community.
The governor predicted Utah’s omicron surge would peak in two weeks.
“I am more optimistic than I have been at any point in this pandemic,” he said during a Friday morning press conference at the Capitol building. “With omicron spreading so rapidly that will help us move on ... that will give us the type of immunity that we needed all along to get us through this, combined with vaccines.”
Dr. Andrew Pavia, the chief infectious diseases physician at Primary Children’s, said at a Friday news conference that the worst of the omicron surge would last a few weeks.
“I don’t know that anyone who knows anything about this disease is comfortable making long-term predictions because of the emergence of variants,” Pavia said. “I think the disruption we’re facing now – the empty store shelves, the schools that are being forced to close, the overcrowded emergency rooms – I think that can come under control in just a few weeks.”
State health officials on Friday reported 11,128 new cases and eight COVID-related deaths since Thursday.
School-aged children in Utah between the ages of 5 and 17 make up about a quarter of those cases, according to figures from the Utah Department of Health. About 672 people with COVID-19 in Utah are currently hospitalized. Since the pandemic began, over 750,000 Utahns have tested positive for the virus, according to state data. Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties lead with the most COVID-19 cases in the state.
So far, about 2.2 million people in Utah have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Tribune reporter Erin Alberty contributed to this story.