Laura Seitz, KSL, File

'A very difficult time': Herbert provides update as 1,837 more COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths reported Thursday

By Tracie Snowder, KSL.com | Updated - Oct. 29, 2020 at 2:54 p.m. | Posted - Oct. 29, 2020 at 11:15 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's number of COVID-19 cases has increased by 1,837 on Thursday, with 10 more deaths reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.

This is the second day in a row Utah has reported 10 deaths, which matches the highest death total reported by the Utah Department of Health in a single day.

Thursday's totals give Utah 110,640 total confirmed cases, with 317 total hospitalizations and 598 total deaths from the disease.

The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 1,578, according to Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn. The positive test rate per day for that time period is now 18.1%.

Of the 1,063,291 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 9.67% have tested positive for the disease.

Health officials gave a dire warning that hospitals will likely have to transition to crisis standards of care within seven to 10 days, based on the current caseload in Utah.

"Unfortunately, we are in a very difficult time right now with these surges, and these spiking that's going on with the infections and the coronavirus," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a morning press briefing. "We're concerned, as we've said 7½ months ago when we started this quest: the number one issue is let's make sure we don't overwhelm the medical system… We're very concerned about the direction that we're going right now, and we could have a crisis of care if we don't, in fact, bend the curve on the infection rates."

County transmission levels

Two more counties, Uintah and Duchesne, have moved from moderate to high transmission level, reported Utah Department of Health Interim Executive Director Rich Saunders. The total number of counties in Utah in the high transmission level is 23. One county is in the moderate transmission level and five counties are in the low transmission level.

Photo: coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels/

Residents in counties in the high transmission level are under health orders to wear masks in public and to limit gatherings to 10 people or less.

New deaths reported

In an email, the health department released more details about the new reported deaths. They included:

  • A Beaver County woman between ages 45 and 64 who was not hospitalized
  • An Emery County man between ages 45 and 64 who was not hospitalized
  • A Juab County man between ages 65 and 84 who was hospitalized
  • A Piute County woman between ages 65 and 84 who was hospitalized
  • A Salt Lake County man between ages 25 and 44 who was hospitalized
  • A Salt Lake County man between ages 45 and 64 who was hospitalized
  • A Salt Lake County man between ages 45 and 64 who was hospitalized
  • A Salt Lake County man between ages 65 and 84 who was the resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Utah County woman over age 85 who was the resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Washington County man over age 85 who was not hospitalized

Hospitalizations

There are 317 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, including 123 in intensive care units across the state. About 69% of all ICU beds in Utah are occupied as of Thursday, while about 55% of non-ICU beds are filled, state data shows.

Hospitals reaching capacity

The press conference Thursday morning was filled with warnings that hospitals will likely have to transition to crisis standards of care within two weeks.

"The message that they're going to be delivering is pretty sobering, but it reflects the reality that they're currently facing in the hospitals. We feel like it's really important that people understand this message, said Utah Department of Health interim executive director Rich Saunders. "It's not just about COVID, it's about anyone who has an issue that takes them to the hospital."

While hospitals are being overrun with COVID-19 patients, a person who has a heart attack, for example, won't be able to get the same standard of care as normal, Saunders said.

In addition to Saunders, Herbert and Dunn, Utah Hospital Association President and CEO Greg Bell and Utah Hospital Association Crisis Standards Committee Chair Mark Shah.

Bell and Shah both talked about what will happen when hospitals have to transition to a crisis standard of care when hospitals don't have enough healthcare workers to meet demand of patients.

"We are in the middle of a very, very serious spike. We have a pandemic," Bell said. "We don't use that word out of this context often, but we are in the midst of a pandemic and is now virulent among us."

Shah, who has been an emergency room physician for over 20 years, has been responsible for developing a plan for crisis standards of care across the hospital system in Utah and said that hospitals are already starting to feel the strain. Nurses are caring for more than the usual number of patients, and are under mandatory overtime, he said, and have benefitted from "a mask for every Utahn" project.

Shah said Utah has been able to implement the following to help hospitals:

  • Contracting skilled nursing facilities to offload hospital patients
  • Moving healthcare workers to functional nurse roles under the guidance of registered nurses
  • Actively working with Utah to recruit retired, semi-retired and out-of-state nurses
  • Move patients from hospitals that are stressed to hospitals with available rooms
  • Expanding ways to take care of patients including home care and mobile care sites and using remote patient monitoring to check vitals

This is still not enough to help with the patient demand that is likely to hit Utah in 7-10 days however, Shah warned. In addition to wearing masks and social distancing, Shah urged Utahns to get the flu vaccine.

'Time for debate is over'

The most important thing Utahns can do to relieve the pressure on the healthcare system is to wear a mask, socially distance and keep all gatherings to 10 people or less.

"We cannot continue to argue about masking. We cannot continue to argue about whether this pandemic is real or made up," Shah said. And we cannot continue to argue that healthcare will do just fine regardless of the demand. That is not true."

Herbert echoed the same sentiments and asked Utahns to limit their casual gatherings with friends and family.

"There's way too much debate," Herbert said. "I appreciated Dr. Shah talking about the time for debate is over, it's just time for action. It's what we're doing."

Utahns should be especially careful this coming weekend with Halloween activities, Shah said.

"Let's unite around this shared mission, let's do what we can," he said. "Yes, it's uncomfortable. Yes, it's strange to wear this mask. Yes, our Halloween activities this weekend will need to be altered, but they can still be enjoyable. Kids are resilient. We are resilient."


Utah Gov. Gary Herbert provided a COVID-19 update Thursday morning. Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, interim executive director Rich Saunders, as well as Utah Hospital Association President and CEO Greg Bell and Utah Hospital Association Crisis Standards Committee Chair Mark Shah spoke at the event.

Watch a replay of the event below.

Last 7 days:

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that 1,052,059 have been tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far. The correct number is 1,063,291 people tested, an increase of 11,232 from the previous day.

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.

More information about Utah's health guidance levels is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels.

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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Tracie Snowder

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