Kristin Murphy, KSL file

Utah meets governor's case limit goal with 500 more COVID-19 cases, 4 deaths reported Friday

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Jul. 31, 2020 at 2:11 p.m. | Posted - Jul. 31, 2020 at 1:04 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY β€” Utah has achieved Gov. Gary Herbert's COVID-19 case limit goal with 500 new cases reported Friday, but there is still a long way to go.

Four more deaths were also reported, according to the Utah Department of Health. The health department estimates that there are now 11,763 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah.

The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 457, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period is now 9.9%.

Herbert had set a goal of seeing the seven-day average number drop below 500 cases per day by tomorrow, Aug. 1. Friday's update means Utah has achieved the goal.

Had Utah failed to meet the benchmark by Saturday, Herbert had previously indicated he would reconsider stricter measures, such as a statewide mask mandate, to stop the spread of the disease. It's not clear exactly how the state will move forward now that the goal has been met.

State health officials said Thursday during a news conference that Utah has moved from a plateau in the disease's spread to a decline over the past several days. But Herbert said he's not ready to "spike the football" and declare victory over COVID-19 yet.

Herbert will continue to review the available data and numbers before changing or enacting any coronavirus-related policies, his office said.

"I am very encouraged by the trend we are seeing," Herbert's office said in a Thursday statement. "The unified command team works very closely with our hospital and healthcare experts to determine how our hospital capacity is managing and how our rolling case averages affect this. ... We will continue to look at the data and numbers before making any decisions.”

Though some statistics remain promising Friday, others show Utah's pandemic is far from over. The state has eclipsed 40,000 total cases of the disease, and over 200 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized for the ninth day in a row.

While a daily average of 500 new cases is lower than many days over the past month, it's still well above the number Utah was averaging in early summer. Before a major COVID-19 spike began around Memorial Day, Utah typically had been averaging 150-200 new cases a day.

Friday's new numbers indicate a 1.3% increase in positive cases since Thursday. Of the 528,910 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 7.6% have tested positive for the disease. As of Friday, the number of tests conducted has increased by 4,543, state data shows.

There are currently 213 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah as of Friday, according to the health department. Of those, 81 patients are occupying intensive care unit, or ICU, beds across the state, health department data indicates.

About 66% of all ICU beds in Utah are occupied as of Friday. Just under 57% of non-ICU beds are filled, according to the health department.

Two of the deaths reported Friday were Salt Lake County men between the ages of 65 and 84. Both were also residents of long-term care facilities, according to the health department.

The third death was a San Juan County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 who was hospitalized when she died. The fourth death was a Cache County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility.

Friday's totals give Utah 40,196 total confirmed cases, with 2,377 total hospitalizations and 304 total deaths from the disease. A total of 28,130 cases are now considered recovered.

Part of Herbert's reason for setting the 500-per-day goal was considering schools.

Many of Utah's districts will return with in-person learning for the fall semester, with others providing a mixture of in-person, distance or virtual learning options for students. Districts were instructed to come up with a plan for how they will operate in pandemic times by Aug. 1, and the state on Thursday released a comprehensive COVID-19 schools manual that provides guidance on the subject.

Herbert, health department state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, and other state leaders wanted to see the spread of COVID-19 go down in Utah before schools reopen. It's crucial that the state maintain that momentum as students, teachers, faculty and staff return to schools, Dunn said Thursday.

β€œIt is really important that we continue on this trajectory," she said.

There is not a COVID-19 news conference scheduled for Friday. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and several other state leaders spoke at the health department's weekly news conference on Thursday.

Methodology:

Test results now include data from PCR tests and antigen tests. Positive COVID-19 test results are reported to the health department immediately after they are confirmed, but negative test results may not be reported for 24 to 72 hours.

The total number of cases reported by the Utah Department of Health each day includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah's outbreak began, including those who are currently infected, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.

Recovered cases are defined as anyone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 three or more weeks ago and has not died.

Deaths reported by the state typically occurred two to seven days prior to when they are reported, according to the health department. Some deaths may be from even further back, especially if the person is from Utah but has died in another state.

The health department reports both confirmed and probable COVID-19 case deaths per the case definition outlined by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. The death counts are subject to change as case investigations are completed.

Data included in this story primarily reflects the state of Utah as a whole. For more localized data, visit your local health district's website.

Information is from the Utah Department of Health and coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts. For more information on how the Utah Department of Health compiles and reports COVID-19 data, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts and scroll down to the "Data Notes" section at the bottom of the page.

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Jacob Klopfenstein

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