SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, for the third time in recent weeks, doctors said it's important that student-athletes get vaccinated so they avoid getting sick during the season.
Another 1,050 cases of the disease were reported on Wednesday, following 1,211 new cases on Friday, and 1,113 cases on July 29, according to the Utah Department of Health. Before July 29, Utah hadn't reported over 1,000 cases in a single day since February.
Experts say the uptick in cases is primarily being driven by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus among people who haven't been vaccinated. As the start of the school year rapidly approaches, some health officials expect things to get worse when students return to classrooms.
It's especially important for student-athletes to get vaccinated, Intermountain Healthcare certified athletic trainer Rhett Farrer said Wednesday. Doing so could ensure that athletes don't get COVID-19 during the school year, which would likely prevent them from playing their sports.
"Protect yourself, protect your season," he said during an Intermountain news conference Wednesday. "Your best effort is to get a vaccination."
COVID-19 vaccines are often more effective in younger people, added Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain's community health and prevention medical director.
"The younger you are, the better you actually respond to the vaccine," Sheffield said.
About 43.8% of Utah teens ages 12-18 have received at least a first vaccine dose, and around a third of them are fully vaccinated, according to Sheffield. Moderna will soon seek approval from federal regulators to distribute their vaccine to that age group, so there may be two options in the near future, she said.
Vaccinations in younger people is especially important because children can develop "long COVID," Sheffield said. People with long COVID can experience symptoms of the disease long after they are first infected. Symptoms can linger more than a year after the initial infection.
Long-term fatigue, coughing and chest pain have all been documented in children with long COVID, Sheffield said. That could keep athletes off the field, she pointed out.
Not only can long COVID affect children physically, it can also affect kids' concentration and memory, she said. That could affect their performance in the classroom, too, but it can be prevented, she added.
"The way to stop that is to get everybody vaccinated," Sheffield said.
The health department reported eight new deaths Wednesday, including seven people under age 65, and one Weber County man who was younger than 25.
There are 388 currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 8,379 more vaccinations were administered since Tuesday's report, according to the health department.
Utah's rolling seven-day average for positive cases in the state is now at 907 cases per day. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 15.2%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 10.7%.
Of the 388 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, 166 are in intensive care, state data show. About 83% of all intensive care unit hospital beds in the state are now occupied, including about 84% of beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 61% of non-ICU hospital beds in the state are now occupied.
A total of 3,050,326 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Utah since December. There are now 1,689,715 Utahns who have received a first dose, which is about 52.7% of the total state population. Of that, 1,491,534 Utahns, or about 46.5% of the overall population, are now fully vaccinated. For vaccine-eligible Utahns ages 12 and older, 65.2% have received at least one dose, and 57.5% are fully vaccinated, the health department reports.
The amount of the virus that is present in a person's body when they catch the delta variant can be up to 1,000 times more than the viral load with other variants.
–Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare
The delta variant has changed things in Utah, Sheffield said. The amount of the virus that is present in a person's body when they catch the delta variant can be up to 1,000 times more than the viral load with other variants, she said.
"What we were hoping for in terms of transmission has been changed with the delta variant," she said. "That changes masking policy, that changes isolation policy, and that changes quarantine policy."
Of the 2,945,514 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 14.8% have tested positive for the disease. The number of total tests conducted since the pandemic began in Utah is now at 5,359,045, up 12,293 since Tuesday. Of those, 6,999 were tests of people who hadn't previously been tested for COVID-19.
The eight deaths reported Wednesday include:
- A Cache County woman who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was not hospitalized when she died.
- Two Salt Lake County women between 45-64, one who was hospitalized and the other who was not hospitalized.
- A Utah County man between 25-44, who was hospitalized.
- A Weber County male between 15-24, who was hospitalized.
- A Weber County man between 25-44, who was hospitalized.
- A Weber County man, older than 85, who was a long-term care facility resident.
- A Weber County man, 65-84, who was a long-term care facility resident.
Wednesday's totals give Utah 436,487 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 18,825 total resulting hospitalizations and 2,479 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.