SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health reported seven COVID-19 deaths in the state Tuesday. But unlike earlier in the pandemic, it's not just older Utahns who are dying now — five of the seven deaths were people under 65 years of age.
The health department also reported 613 new COVID-19 cases as Utah continues experiencing a surge in the disease driven largely by the spread of the delta variant among unvaccinated people.
The seven deaths reported Tuesday were:
- A Davis County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64
- A Millard County woman, 45-64
- Two Salt Lake County men, 65-84
- A Salt Lake County woman, 25-44
- A Uintah County woman, 45-64
- A Washington County man, 25-44
All seven were hospitalized when they died.
The health department doesn't report vaccination status for each individual death. But health officials have said nearly all Utah COVID-19 deaths over the past six months have been unvaccinated people, and vaccination uptake rates are typically worse for younger age groups.
The health department also reported that 338 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and 5,204 new vaccinations were administered.
Of the hospitalized patients, 150 are in intensive care units, according to state data. About 81% of all ICU hospital beds are occupied in Utah as of Tuesday, including about 84% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. That means that there is a major strain on Utah's health care system, and hospitals are approaching the point of having no more available ICU beds.
State data shows that a total of 1,654,198 Utahns — or about 51.6% of the state's total population — have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. A total of 1,469,726 Utahns — or about 45.8% of the state's population — are now fully vaccinated.
For vaccine-eligible Utahns ages 12 and older, about 63.8% have received at least one dose, and 56.7% are fully vaccinated, health department data shows.
U. COVID-19 plasma treatment study seeks participants
As the pandemic continues, the University of Utah and Johns Hopkins University are looking for Utahns to participate in a study that focuses on convalescent plasma. The plasma has potential uses as a treatment for COVID-19.
The U. is looking for people who are 18 or older and have been infected with COVID-19 within the last week or less, according to Dr. Emily Spivak, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the U. People who want to participate in the study also must be experiencing at least one symptom of the disease.
Some medical trials across the world have suggested that convalescent plasma, if given to someone within the first three or four days of COVID-19 infection, can reduce the length of the infection and alleviate symptoms, Spivak said. The U.'s study, which has been ongoing for the last six to nine months, hopes to broaden the scope of those earlier studies and confirm those suggestions, she added.
"I think this study has real helpful implications as far as advancing knowledge and adding to what is going to be an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," Spivak said in a recent interview with KSL.com. "There are going to be people down the road who get infected who this knowledge and what we learn from this could help, if we could find a treatment for them."
Anyone who fits the criteria and is interested in participating in the study can contact the U. at email@example.com.
Public health officials have said the pandemic would be temporary for the last 18 months, Spivak pointed out. But now that it's not going away and epidemiologists expect COVID-19 to continue in perpetuity in some capacity, people are fatigued from hearing about it, she added.
Hopefully, people will be motivated to participate in the study since it could help end the pandemic, Spivak said.
The fatigue has spread into the health care industry, where doctors and nurses are weary from treating patients, and from hearing that people won't get vaccinated, Spivak added. "It's frankly just super frustrating with all of the clear scientific evidence."
Some health care professionals are even thinking about getting out of the field, she said.
Public messaging has continued to reach many people, but lots of Utahns have become tapped out on all the health information around vaccines, Spivak added. The wild spread of misinformation hasn't helped with that, she said.
Spivak said she's in favor of mandating vaccines, possibly at the employer level. Vaccination mandates might also make sense in health care or school settings, she said.
"I think there are clearly other ways that we have to push people to get vaccinated," Spivak said.
Utah's rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 653, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 14.7%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 10.2%.
Of the 2,897,548 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 14.8% have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of total tests conducted in Utah since the pandemic began is now at 5,278,476, up 7,444 since Monday. Of those, 4,333 were tests of people who hadn't previously been tested for COVID-19.
Tuesday's totals give Utah 429,300 total confirmed cases, with 18,426 total hospitalizations and 2,441 total deaths from the disease.
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.