Coronavirus in Utah: Cases fall, ICU beds increase as state reports two new deaths

Coronavirus in Utah: Cases fall, ICU beds increase as state reports two new deaths

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is one of 113 VA Medical Centers across the country to receive the first limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. As frontline health care workers in Utah hospitals continue to get vaccinations this week, including employees at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dec. 23, 2020, those who work at long-term care facilities are scheduled to get their first doses Monday.

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Things are looking up for Utah in terms of hospitalizations and the availability of beds in intensive care units.

The Utah Department of Health reported Sunday that there are currently 474 people hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s four less than Saturday, and the lowest that number has been in a month. The number of people who have been hospitalized in Utah since the pandemic began is now 10,584.

In another positive trend, ICU bed capacity increased. As of Sunday, 80.1% — or 430 out of 537 — of all ICU beds were occupied. Last week, the number stood at 94.8% statewide.

New COVID-19 cases also fell. The health department reported 796 new COVID-19 infections Sunday, ending the week that included the Christmas holiday with two consecutive days of less than 1,000 new daily cases. That hasn’t happened since mid-October, when on Oct. 12 and 13, the health department reported 988 and 987 new cases on those days, respectively.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases dropped to 1,980 on Sunday. It’s the first time the rolling average has been below 2,000 since early November.

While the dip in cases sounds like good news, the trend likely has a major caveat. Most testing sites statewide were closed due to the Christmas holiday, which likely means the decrease is artificial.

The rate of positive infections increased slightly over a day. On Sunday, the state reported the rate is at 24.3%. It was at an even 24% on Saturday. It has held steady at around 24% all week.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leading infectious disease experts in the United States and a White House adviser, warned in a CNN interview that a post-holiday coronavirus spike could be on the horizon.

“We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s — surge, and as I’ve described it, as a surge upon a surge,” Fauci said. He added that the state of the pandemic “might actually get worse” in the next few weeks.

Two new deaths were reported Sunday.

• Two Salt Lake County women, one between the ages 45 and 64, the other between 65 and 84.

The number of people who have died from the coronavirus in Utah is 1,214.

The two deaths reported Sunday means 60 Utahns succumbed to COVID-19 in the past week. In the same timespan, 13,910 residents contracted the coronavirus.

The health department reported Sunday that 68 more Utahns have received the COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total statewide to 16,992.

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