COVID-19 cases: Is Utah’s 2021 surge worse than 2020?

The ongoing surge on Utah’s hospitals due to COVID-19 is no worse than the one we saw last winter, according to one health care official, but it is lasting longer.

And with fewer resources, hospital officials fear greater burnout if they continue working at this pace.

“We don’t have those extra people anymore, and the people that are here have been doing those extra shift for almost two years,” said Dr. Kencee Graves, associate chief medical officer of inpatient care at University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City, pointing to overflow intensive care unit capacity and extra staff members in place during the first year of the pandemic.

“It feels as stressful here (this year). It’s just that we’re all tired of doing it. And I worry about our ability to continue to stress our health care workers,” she added during a news conference on Thursday.

While last year’s winter surge on hospitals lasted about nine weeks, she said, the hospital is now grappling with its 12th week. Meanwhile, intensive care units across the state that can treat the most serious patients were 96.1% full on Thursday, and overall ICU use was at 91.9%. Hospitals were treating 549 people with the coronavirus — an increase of 41 since the previous Thursday.

Erin Clouse, strategic engagement manager at U. Health, said she expected the state to mark an increase in hospitalizations just two weeks after Thanksgiving. But on a positive note, Utah is beginning to see a decline in new cases.

It’s too soon to attempt to predict what the rest of the year and holiday season might bring, Clouse said. But she hopes that if we do see a “bump” from Christmas and New Year, that it is not significant.

She urged residents to take precautions.

“The more we congregate in groups and outside of our family, the more opportunity we’re going to give this virus to jump,” Clouse said.

New Utah data

Utah health officials reported 1,397 new COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths on Thursday. Two of those deaths occurred prior to Nov. 9, the Utah Department of Heath noted.

The rolling, seven-day average for new cases is 1,332 per day, and the positive rate of those tested is 15.3%, the Utah Department of Health said.

School-age children represented 255 of the new cases — 126 cases were ages 5-10, 55 were 11-13, and 74 were 14-17.

Health care workers administered 18,066 vaccine doses since the previous day’s report, bringing total doses given in Utah to 4,291,969. Now 61.5% of those eligible for the vaccine in Utah — those age 5 and older — have been fully vaccinated.

Nearly a year since vaccines first became available in the state, 52,611 breakthrough cases — meaning those who have been fully vaccinated more than two weeks before their infection — have been confirmed, as well as 317 breakthrough deaths. On Thursday, the state reported 404 breakthrough cases — about 29% of the total new cases — and four breakthrough deaths.

Since the pandemic began, Utah has confirmed 609,351 cases and 3,632 deaths caused by the coronavirus. The death rate of confirmed cases stands at about 0.6%. The average age of those who died is 71.3, and 46.7% had at least one preexisting condition that made them more at-risk to COVID-19 complications, according to data from the state health department.

The latest deaths include:

  • Two Salt Lake County men between the ages of 65 and 84, one of whom was hospitalized when he died and one who was not
  • An Iron County woman, 65-84, hospitalized
  • Two Salt Lake County women, 45-64, one of whom was not hospitalized and one who was not
  • A Weber County woman, 45-64, hospitalized
  • A Salt Lake County woman, 45-64, hospitalized
  • A Wasatch County man, 65-84, not hospitalized
  • An Emery County man, 65-84, hospitalized
  • A Washington County woman, 65-84, hospitalized
  • A Salt Lake County man, 24-44, hospitalized