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Utah up to 887 COVID-19 cases, state reports 5th death

By Jacob Klopfenstein, | Updated - Mar. 31, 2020 at 1:59 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 31, 2020 at 12:33 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 887, and a fifth death has been reported, according to the Utah Department of Health on Tuesday.

The woman, who died Sunday in the Weber-Morgan health district, was between the ages of 18 and 60 and had underlying health conditions, officials confirmed. The woman was in a long-term care facility and had been receiving hospice services, according to a news release from the Weber-Morgan Health Department.

“We want the family and the staff and residents at the care facility to know our heartfelt condolences,” Brian Bennion, executive director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said in the release. “We appreciate the prompt actions of the care facility to recognize and prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus. They immediately implemented prevention measures to protect the other residents and their staff.”

Staff members at the facility isolated the woman when she was diagnosed with COVID-19. The health department is currently monitoring all people who came in close contact with the woman, the release said.

Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said Tuesday that less than three long-term care facilities have reported COVID-19 cases. Staff members at those facilities are doing a great job of screening visitors and denying entry to people who may possibly spread the disease.

"That is essential," Dunn said. "We know that that is our most at-risk population, so our facilities are doing an excellent job."

A COVID-19 case has also been confirmed in the Central Utah health district, which was the last district in Utah that had yet to report a case before Tuesday. The person infected is a man over the age of 60 who is currently recovering at his home, according to a news release from the Central Utah Public Health Department.

Officials believe the man's exposure to the disease may be related to travel outside of the United States, the release said.

Statewide, Tuesday's 81-case jump is an increase of about 10% from Monday to Tuesday, which is a lower rate of increase than previous days over the last week, where it has hovered around 12-15%.

Overall, 18,513 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Utah, and about 4.8% of those tested have tested positive for the disease, according to health department data. Just over 2,500 were tested for the disease Monday — the state's highest test number to date, Dunn said.

At a press conference earlier Tuesday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said there were 4,000 people tested, but Dunn clarified that the state tested 2,510. The state's goal is to be able to test 7,000 per day, according to Herbert.

Though the amount of people being tested is increasing, the rate of positive COVID-19 results is staying around 5%, which is encouraging, Dunn said. The consistent rates of positive tests and increases in cases means that social distancing is working, she added.

Local health officials also are doing a great job of contact tracing to determine other people who might have been exposed to COVID-19, she said.

Those signs over the past few days are encouraging, but it's still too early to tell if Utah is flattening the curve of COVID-19. The state will have to observe several weeks of the same consistent results before authorities can say the pandemic is flattening, Dunn said.

There is no evidence of false positives or false negatives from testing in Utah, she said. Health authorities nationwide are working to make sure testing is accurate, and tests are most effective when people are showing symptoms of COVID-19, she added.

Previously, there were 787 cases in Utah residents and 19 in visitors. Tuesday's numbers showed 865 positive cases are Utah residents and 22 are visitors to the state.

Here is the breakdown of cases among Utah health districts as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Utah Department of Health.

The numbers include those who are infected currently and those who have already recovered. The case in the Central Utah health district has been confirmed, but the Utah Department of Health will not be reporting that case on its website until Wednesday, Dunn said.

  • Bear River health district: 13 residents, 0 visitors
  • Davis County health district: 84 residents, 0 visitors
  • Salt Lake County health district: 396 residents, 6 visitors
  • San Juan County health district: 4 residents, 0 visitors
  • Southeast Utah health district: 1 resident, 0 visitors
  • Southwest Utah health district: 21 residents, 5 visitors
  • Summit County health district: 172 residents, 9 visitors
  • Tooele County health district: 12 residents, 0 visitors
  • TriCounty health district: 1 resident, 0 visitors
  • Utah County health district: 70 residents, 1 visitor
  • Wasatch County health district: 50 residents, 1 visitors
  • Weber-Morgan health district: 41 residents, 0 visitors

So far during Utah's outbreak, a total of 73 people have required hospitalization, according to health department data.

A handful of healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19 in Utah so far, but it's unclear if they got the disease through contact with infected patients, Dunn said. It is possible they became infected through exposure in their daily lives, she said.

Dunn discussed the current coronavirus situation in the state at the Utah Department of Health's daily press conference Tuesday afternoon. Watch the full replay of the event below.

This is developing news. We're working on gathering more information and will be updating this story shortly.

Jacob Klopfenstein

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