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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has reached the COVID-19 pandemic endgame.
The state crossed the threshold in the three metrics outlined in Utah HB294, also known as the pandemic "endgame" bill, Tuesday afternoon, according to health officials. That means that most state and local health orders will end Tuesday.
The bill required restrictions to be lifted once the state reached three benchmarks:
- A two-week coronavirus case rate of less than 191 per 100,000 people
- Less than 15% of intensive care unit beds be occupied by COVID-19 patients over a seven-day average
- 1,633,000 prime doses of the COVID-19 vaccine be allocated to the state
The Utah Department of Health announced Tuesday that the state has reached the three required benchmarks.
- Utah's 14-day case rate is 163.4 per 100,000 people
- The ICU usage average over the past week is 11.2%
- 1,656,025 prime vaccine doses have been allocated to the state
"I understand HB294 has been controversial. Important, legitimate arguments having been made on all sides of the issues," health department executive director Rich Saunders said in a letter addressed to the Utah Legislature on Tuesday. "But today should give all of us reason to celebrate. No matter which side someone falls on, we can all be proud of the outcomes we have achieved so far."
Meeting the benchmark terminates health orders that require a mask for gatherings of 50 people or more and terminates local government health orders requiring masks in places such as Salt Lake City and Grand County.
Though most health orders will end, the bill allows the state health department's orders pertaining to Utah's K-12 schools to continue. The mask mandate for K-12 schools will continue through June 15 or the last day of school, whichever comes first. The health department said earlier in a news release that the date was June 1, but corrected the date to June 15.
"It's important not to give up the ground we have gained, especially in our schools," Saunders said. "We're asking teachers, administrators, parents and students to please hang in there, and finish the year on a healthy note."
Other exceptions include:
- Any private businesses can still require masks and require social distancing.
- All state-owned facilities have a mask mandate per Gov. Spencer Cox's orders until May 31. After that date, the agency can determine whether masks still will be required.
- Utah Transit Authority will require masks and social distancing on all its buses and trains until September.
- Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has imposed a mask mandate for all county-owned facilities.
- Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has imposed one for all city-owned facilities.
I plan to issue an executive order requiring masks at all City facilities shortly and as a City we will continue encouraging people to wear life-saving masks while COVID remains a very real and present risk to public health. #utpol#slc— Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) May 4, 2021
New COVID-19 cases
Tuesday, Utah's number of COVID-19 cases increased by 259, with 13 more deaths and 19,965 vaccinations reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Ten of the deaths reported Tuesday occurred before April 1 but were still being investigated, according to the health department.
There are now an estimated 8,158 active COVID-19 cases in Utah, the health department reported. The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 358. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 6.5%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 3.4%.
There are 143 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 54 in ICUs, state data shows. About 68% of ICU beds in Utah are occupied as of Tuesday, including about 71% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 49% of non-ICU hospital beds are now occupied in the state, the health department reports.
A total of 2,204,824 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, up from 2,184,859 Monday. A total of 1,320,344 Utahns have now received at least a first vaccine dose, and 973,629 are fully vaccinated. A total of 2,558,940 vaccine doses have been shipped to Utah so far.
About 41.2% of all Utahns have now received at least one vaccine dose, and 30.4% are fully vaccinated. Among Utahns who are age 16 or older and are currently eligible for the vaccine, 55.5% have had at least one dose and 40.9% are fully vaccinated, according to state data.
The new numbers indicate a 0.07% increase in positive cases since Monday. Of the 2,574,992 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 15.5% have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of total tests conducted in Utah since the pandemic began is now at 4,678,269, up 10,114 since Monday. Of those, 4,059 were tests of people who had not previously been tested for COVID-19, according to the health department.
The 13 deaths reported Tuesday were:
- A Box Elder County woman who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Cache County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was not hospitalized when he died
- A Cache County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Carbon County man who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was not hospitalized when he died
- A Salt Lake County man who was over the age of 85 and was not hospitalized when he died
- A Salt Lake County man who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Salt Lake County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was not hospitalized when he died
- Two Salt Lake County men who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and weren't hospitalized when they died
- A Salt Lake County woman who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was not hospitalized when she died
- A Uintah County woman who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Washington County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was not hospitalized when he died
- A Weber County man who was over the age of 85 and was hospitalized when he died
Tuesday's totals give Utah 398,499 total confirmed cases, with 16,258 total hospitalizations and 2,217 total deaths from the disease. An estimated 388,124 Utah COVID-19 cases are now considered recovered.
Singer Alex Boyé reunites with COVID-19 victim
Also Tuesday, singer Alex Boyé reunited with a recovering COVID-19 victim he sang to last year while she was hospitalized with the disease.
Ana Lucio was discharged from MountainStar's Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful in May 2020 after spending over two months hospitalized with COVID-19. She was the hospital's longest COVID-19 admission, according to a news release from MountainStar.
A curbside concert from Boyé in May 2020 in the hospital's parking lot was the first time Lucio had been outside since being admitted to the hospital.
"I remember having such strong emotion the day of last year's concert," Lucio said in the news release through a translator. "I feel it is important to share hope with the world, especially in these times where many people can easily feel down or depressed. I am so grateful for everyone who cared for me during my stay at the hospital."
Boyé performed another curbside concert for hospital workers and patients Tuesday to mark the anniversary of his first show at the hospital.
"I just want to bring some music, bring some laughter, bring some fun," Boyé said in an interview Tuesday. "I know how important that is into my life, and hopefully I can do that for other people. So I'm excited about that."
Lucio is still recovering from the disease, but said she is at about 80% health now.
In an interview Tuesday, Lucio said she saw that Boyé and his wife were motivated to spread some hope early in the pandemic, so he came to sing at the hospital to spread some joy. She said she wants to be a message of hope, as well.
Boyé said he remembered seeing doctors and nurses last year whose faces were "raw and red" from the masks they were wearing.
"That to me just spoke volumes to me about how important it is and the hard work that the doctors and nurses are putting in, they're probably working even twice as hard," he said.
Boyé said he lost 170 performances during the pandemic as events were canceled, but in the last two weeks, his managers have been inundated with calls.
As more and more people are being vaccinated against COVID-19, the spring has brought a feeling of hope and new beginnings, the singer said.
"You can feel it in the air," Boyé said.
Contributing: Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio; Aubrey Shafer, KSL-TV; Ashley Fredde, KSL.com
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.