SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials report 596 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths ahead of the holiday weekend.
This brings Utah’s total number of confirmed cases to 23,866 since the outbreak began. The Utah Department of Health estimates 10,277 of those cases to be active.
A total of 181 Utahns have died due to COVID-19, while an estimated 13,408 have recovered. Health officials consider anyone who was diagnosed with the disease three or more weeks ago who has not died to be recovered.
Friday’s numbers indicate a 2.5% increase in positive cases since Thursday, according to the health department. A total of 356,636 tests have been administered in Utah since March for a positive rate of 6.7%.
Health officials also report 24 new hospitalizations since Thursday. Of the 1,529 total hospitalized cases, 186 are currently hospitalized.
Two of the five deaths reported were Salt Lake County residents in long-term care facilities: a man and a woman, both between the ages of 65 and 84.
The third and fourth deaths were a Summit County man between 65 and 84, who was hospitalized at the time of death, and a Washington County woman between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident.
The youngest death reported Friday was a Weber County man between the ages of 25 and 44. He was also a resident in a long-term care facility, the health department said.
Utah’s 7-day case average has dropped the last two days for an average of 543.9. On Thursday, the 7-day average was 550.6.
Avoiding another case spike
As Utahns prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, state leaders urge the general public to do so safely to avoid another case spike, much like the one seen after Memorial Day.
Gov. Gary Herbert took to Twitter to remind residents to gather outside and in small groups, practice social distancing and wear face masks.
“Be especially careful around older family members and those at higher risk,” Herbert tweeted.
While we celebrate this weekend, let's do so safely. COVID-19 has changed how we interact & celebrate. Gather in smaller groups, hold events outside, practice physical distancing, and use masks. Be especially careful around older family members and those at higher risk.— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) July 3, 2020
On Thursday, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said Utah hospitals cannot handle another COVID-19 case surge and asked Utahns to wear a mask as they enjoy the holiday.
"We are spending the holiday weekend apart from others, outside in the fresh air, and wearing masks IF we have to go anywhere else. Please do the same,” Dunn said on Twitter.
Dunn firing rumors
The Utah Department of Health on Friday also addressed rumors regarding Dunn’s employment status saying “there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that she is being fired.”
The department tweeted a statement from acting executive director Jeff Burton:
“Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is complex and requires economic, public health, and political considerations. Dr. Angela Dunn is an outstanding epidemiologist and her knowledge and insights are essential to our decision making processes. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that she is being fired. Angela’s position is rock solid and has my full support.”
It is not clear what prompted the alleged rumors.