SALT LAKE CITY – State officials here announced a record-breaking 3,919 new cases of COVID-19 in Utah on Thursday.
During the weekly COVID-19 press briefing at the Utah Capitol, a visibly worried state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn referred to the new case count as an “incredibly high” number.
The state’s previous record for new cases had been 2,987 reported on Nov. 6.
“We’re four days into the new state orders and the hard reset (announced by Gov. Gary Herbert on Nov. 8),” Dunn said. “We do need to give these measures time to have an impact on our situation. However, we know that COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the state, throughout our communities and throughout all of our age groups.”
Statistics released by state officials on Thursday confirmed Dunn’s observation. The 3,919 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday bring the total number of Utahns infected with the coronavirus to nearly 144,000. Utah’s rolling seven-day average of positive tests was 2,738 on Thursday, up from 2,584 the previous day.
More than 1.2 million Utahns have now been tested for the coronavirus and the state’s rolling seven-day average for positive laboratory tests is 23.2 percent.
Dunn added that the state’s referral hospitals and intensive care units are operating at 85.7 percent of capacity, treating 468 Utahns now hospitalized for COVID-19.
In his statement Thursday, Herbert said that he was concerned when the number of Utahns hospitalized for the disease reached 400. But the current rate of hospitalizations, he stressed, means that Utah hospitals are approaching “a breaking point.”
“Our only hope for slowing the spread of COVID and protecting our hospitals is for everyone to wear masks way more than they are doing so now.” Dunn pleaded. “If you think that you’re wearing a mask most of the time now, you still need to wear it more. And we should only have close interactions with people living in our own households.
“We all desperately need those (behavior changes) to happen right now,” she emphasized.
The only bright spot in Thursday’s state data, Dunn said, comes from the results of mandatory testing of adults and teenagers involved in the upcoming high school football playoffs.
Of 1,360 student athletes, coaches, trainers, drill teams members and cheerleaders tested on Wednesday, 49 positive results were found for a rate of only 3.6 percent.
“I can’t believe that I’m about to say this,” Dunn quipped, “but we all need to start acting like high school athletes … We’d had strong anecdotal reports that kids who are participating in these football programs are taking COVID precaution very seriously. They are physically distancing. They are associating with only a handful of people.
“Yes, they are doing those things to protect their football season. But they also provide very clear evidence for the rest of us that these kind of behaviors work and that they need to be applied to all of our lives.”
Nearly 14,000 Utahns were tested for the coronavirus during the past 24 hours.
Nine additional Utahns succumbed to the coronavirus overnight, bringing the state’s death toll to 487 victims of the disease since the pandemic began in mid-March.
Officials of the Utah Department of Health said that seven of the nine newly deceased Utah patients were hospitalized or under long-term care. Four of them were in the 65 to 84 age group, three were 85 or older and two were between 45 and 64 years of age.
Three of those fatalities were reported in Salt Lake County, two in Utah County and one each in Davis, Sevier, Uintah and Weber counties.
Here in the Bear River Health District, incidents of coronavirus infection continued to climb. BRHD officials reported 208 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, up from a count 191 a day earlier. Of that number, 58 new cases were in Box Elder County, 149 were in Cache County and 1 was reported in Rich County.
The most recent Idaho data indicates there are 77,121 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far in the state, up by 1,693 new cases overnight. Since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March, 441 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus in Franklin County, 120 in Bear Lake County and 84 in Oneida County. There have been 733 COVID-19 deaths in Idaho, an increase of 35 fatalities overnight.