The new numbers indicate a 2.2% increase in positive cases since Tuesday. Of the 343,358 tests conducted in Utah so far, 6.6% were positive for COVID-19.
The numbers were released Wednesday afternoon, following a morning press conference where state leaders announced a monumental logistics effort that will see 500,000 masks delivered to students and teachers in anticipation of a return to school this fall.
Masks delivered to students, teachers
A huge Boeing Dreamlifter aircraft left China yesterday and landed at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday morning to deliver the masks. The delivery was a combined effort between Boeing, Atlas Air, H.M. Cole, Cotopaxi, Flexport, UPS and the state of Utah.
The effort is part of the state's Mask for Every Utahn program, which started in late April with the goal of providing free face coverings for as many state residents as possible.
“As students return to school this fall, it will be important that they have masks available,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a news release. “We thank Boeing and these partners for everything they’ve done to support our A Mask for Every Utahn initiative and make it possible for our students to have these masks and help keep Utahns safe.”
Gov. Gary Herbert, along with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Syd Dickson and several others, discussed the masks initiative and the current coronavirus situation in the state during a press conference Wednesday morning. Watch the replay of the event below.
State leaders plan to have the Utah public education system opened up in time for the fall school year, Herbert said. There will be some modifications to keep schools safe for students, teachers and staff, he added.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Syd Dickson said Wednesday the Utah State Board of Education has outlined a safety plan for the state's schools that considers how people will move through school buildings in order to maintain proper social distancing.
The plan also includes protocols for masks in all schools.
“We want these students to be able to go back to school in the fall — it’s key,” Dickson said. "We are so grateful to the partners who made this happen.”
Utah private and charter schools have been asked to deliver a plan to the state board by Aug. 1, Dickson added.
The Mask For Every Utahn program has delivered 1.1 million masks so far, processed through 272,000 orders, Herbert said.
H.M. Cole manufactured 250,000 masks, and 100,000 of those are smaller masks made to fit children, according to a news release. Cotopaxi manufactured the remaining 250,000 masks.
"Face masks are one of the key tools the public has to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and we’re thrilled that our efforts can help teachers and students safely get back in the classroom,” Cotopaxi Founder and CEO Davis Smith said in the release.
Salt Lake City School District Career and Technical Education Director Theresa Mbaku also thanked the companies and the governor for instituting the program.
“In these difficult times, we must keep our young people safe and healthy," Mbaku said.
Herbert reiterates importance of wearing masks
As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Utah, Herbert reiterated the importance of wearing masks across the state.
“It’s a tangible way of showing that we truly do care about our neighbors," he said. “We need to do even more if we’re going to slow this down."
Despite seeing hundreds of new COVID-19 cases each day, Herbert said he is satisfied with Utah's current situation as leaders work to strike a balance between protecting public health, as well as peoples' livelihoods and economic interests.
He pointed to Utah's COVID-19 mortality rate, which remains the lowest in the nation at under 1%, though he added that one death is still one too many.
“I feel very good about the direction we’re going," Herbert said. “We are not back to normal, we still have an emergency situation."
The Utah Department of Health typically releases a daily update at about 1 p.m. with the number of new cases for the day and more details about the COVID-19 situation in the state.
The governor said Utah leaders have tried to respect regional differences across the state, acknowledging that the COVID-19 situation is different from area to area.
Salt Lake City remains in the orange, moderate risk level for COVID-19, while many rural counties have transitioned to the green, new normal level under the state's Utah Leads Together recovery plan.
Last week, Herbert approved requests from Salt Lake and Summit counties to institute a mask mandate in those areas.
Grand County plans to make a similar request to Herbert's office. The governor said he will be meeting with state and local leaders in the coming days to reach a decision on whether to grant the request.
“We need to do what we can to work together and see what we can do to stop the spread," Herbert said.
New COVID-19 cases
The Utah Department of Health now estimates there are 9,836 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah. Another 12,707 are considered recovered cases. Anyone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 three or more weeks ago who has not died is considered recovered from the disease.
There were 32 more people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah since Tuesday. A total of 194 people are hospitalized with the disease.
Utah health department data shows about 64% of intensive care unit, or ICU, beds at Utah hospitals are occupied as of Wednesday. About 52% of non-ICU beds are occupied.
The death reported Wednesday was a Salt Lake County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84. He was hospitalized when he died, the health department reports.
Wednesday’s totals give Utah 22,716 total confirmed cases, 1,476 total hospitalizations and 173 total deaths from the disease. Previously, there were 22,217 cases in the state.
The total number of cases reported by the health department includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah’s outbreak began, including those who are infected now, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.