SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s number of COVID-19 cases has increased by 1,198 from Wednesday, marking a new single-day case record for the disease in the state, according to Gov. Gary Herbert.
The governor announced the new cases Thursday morning during his monthly news conference with PBS Utah. The previous highest number of Utah cases reported in a single day was 1,117 on Sept. 18. The only other time Utah has recorded over 1,000 cases was Sept. 19, when there were 1,077 new cases, according to state data.
No new deaths were reported Thursday, according to the Utah Department of Health. The agency now estimates that there are 13,815 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah. The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 916, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period is now 14.2%.
Utahns must start taking this COVID-19 surge, which some are calling a "second wave," seriously, Herbert said. While he applauded the creativity of Provo High School's now-scrapped plan to move a football game out of Provo to avoid coronavirus restrictions, such measures might not send the right message, the governor said.
"We have a serious problem, and it's not fictional; it's real," Herbert said Thursday. "We have people that are getting sick and we have people that have died."
This week, Herbert also spoke Tuesday during a COVID-19 news conference.
Thursday's new numbers indicate a 1.8% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 784,975 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 8.6% have tested positive for the disease.
On the plus side, the state reported an increase of 9,117 tests conducted as of Thursday, which is one of the highest single-day test increases of the entire pandemic. Herbert said Thursday large numbers of people are getting tested for COVID-19 in Utah County, with lines around the block at some testing centers.
The majority of new cases are still coming from Utah County, where Herbert mandated the cities of Provo and Orem move back to the orange, or moderate COVID-19 restriction level earlier this week. Of Thursday's new cases, 568 of them were from Utah County, according to state data. About 47% of the new cases Thursday were from Utah County, while about 33% were from Salt Lake County.
The health department reported 188 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, up from 171 Wednesday. Of those hospitalized Thursday, 76 are in intensive care unit, or ICU, beds across the state. About 67% of all ICU beds in the state are filled, while about 55% of non-ICU beds are filled, state data shows.
Thursday's totals give Utah 67,119 total confirmed cases, with 3,619 total hospitalizations and 444 total deaths from the disease. A total of 52,860 Utah COVID-19 cases are now considered recovered, according to the state.
Despite acknowledging that Utah is in the middle of a very serious situation, Herbert remained optimistic about the state's future. He noted that multiple companies have announced they are bringing jobs to Utah, and the state's economy has remained relatively healthy throughout the pandemic.
"We hope the days are getting better," the governor said. “We’re on the right road to recovery."
Some economic industries have faltered — hospitality business has dropped about 17%, Herbert said. But other areas have actually seen growth during the pandemic, especially in outdoor recreation industries. Many golf courses are have booked record numbers of rounds this summer, the governor said.
He again added that all options for future pandemic restrictions are still on the table. That includes a statewide mask mandate, but at this point, with 14 rural counties in the green, "new normal" COVID-19 restriction level, that isn't necessary, Herbert said.
In K-12 schools, state leaders have remained in conversation with administrators, teachers and others in school districts about how the state's guidelines for schools can be improved, Herbert said. His office has received complaints from teachers who say schools aren't consistently following guidelines, so the state may look to modify the plans for consistency, the governor said.
He understands the motivations of school district officials who want to move a football game to a different area so fans can attend, or parents who create their own homecoming dances outside of school buildings. They want to create a good school experience for their students, Herbert speculated. However, they shouldn't be foolish, the governor said. Sometimes young people need to be taught that inconvenient things happen in life, and you might need to make a sacrifice. A little pain and inconvenience now is better than a lot of pain later, he added.
“We control our own destiny," Herbert said.
The governor added that he will plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it's available. Since he is in an age group that is at a higher risk for the disease, it will be a good idea to be inoculated, he said.
Herbert said he's very concerned with the spread of COVID-19, but he is also troubled by the divisiveness some people are exhibiting during the pandemic. Some people are "adding kerosene to the fire" and purposefully trying to divide others rather than working toward a solution.
Everyone needs to change their behavior and do their part, he said.
“Our focus has got to be united,” Herbert said. "We have to all look and say. 'I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.'"
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.