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Utah Health Department model overestimated school-age cases by nearly 29,000 for September, officials say

COVID-19 testing is performed at the Mount Olympus Senior Center parking lot in Millcreek on Tuesday. Utah health officials reported 1,975 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday.

COVID-19 testing is performed at the Mount Olympus Senior Center parking lot in Millcreek on Tuesday. Utah health officials reported 1,975 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah saw about 29,000 fewer COVID-19 cases in school-age children in September than previous models estimated, according to the Utah Department of Health.

"In August, we estimated there could be 39,000 COVID-19 cases in September among school-aged kids in Utah. We were way off. The actual number was 9,957, well below our projection," the Utah Department of Health said in a recent tweet.

Officials with the department acknowledged that public health modeling is "complex," as it attempts to predict behavior based on past measures.

"Our modeling relied on factors like vaccination rates of teens, potential immunity from past cases, and transmission rates," the department said. "These factors strongly suggested that school-age cases were going to be a lot higher this September than September last year."

The rates were 3.6 times higher than last year, but not 13.9 times higher as predicted. Officials called the data from the first few weeks of the school year "promising."

"We will continue to be transparent and provide accurate information to all Utahns about #COVID19. We will continue to learn and grow as we respond to this disease," the department tweeted.

Salt Lake County case rates

In Salt Lake County, which has been one of the largest hotspots of the disease throughout the pandemic, 3,125 school-associated cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed since the school year began, said Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, during a County Council meeting on Tuesday.

About half of those cases have occurred in elementary schools, according to Dunn.

The lowest case rates for the first 40 days of school occurred in Salt Lake City School District, she tweeted Tuesday.

The district is the only in Salt Lake County with a mask mandate, which was ordered by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall after a K-6 mask mandate requested by Dunn was overturned by the County Council.

In the first 49 days of school throughout the county, 33 children under age 18 required hospitalization due to COVID-19, Dunn tweeted.

Dunn said case counts across the county and COVID-19 intensive care unit use continue to decrease, even though the percent positivity rate has ticked up slightly. But Dunn said the rate is stable, indicating a plateau.

Case counts are decreasing in all age groups except those ages 40-49, she said.

Latest Utah data

Utah health officials reported 1,975 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday.

School-age children accounted for 434 of the latest cases — 187 cases were ages 5-10, 106 cases were 11-13, and 141 cases were 14-17, according to a daily updated given by the Utah Department of Health.

The rolling, seven-day average for positive tests is 1,422 per day, and the average percent positivity rate of those tested is 15.4%.

Health care workers provided 10,124 vaccine doses since the previous day's report, bringing total doses given in Utah to 3,525,706.

In the last 28 days, unvaccinated residents have faced 6.4 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 7 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 6.3 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people.

Since Feb. 1, people who are unvaccinated are at four times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 4.8 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 4 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, data shows.

Of Wednesday's cases, 397 were confirmed as "breakthrough" cases, meaning they had been fully vaccinated more than two weeks ago. The state also confirmed 17 new breakthrough hospitalizations and three breakthrough deaths, according to the data.

State health officials and doctors have noted receiving the vaccine does not mean someone will not contract the coronavirus, but in most cases it is protective against serious illness. The vaccine also does not cause a person to get COVID-19.

Since vaccines became available to the public early this year, the state has confirmed 19,806 breakthrough cases, 1,011 breakthrough hospitalizations and 131 breakthrough deaths.

On Wednesday, 575 patients throughout Utah were hospitalized with the coronavirus, an increase of 19 since Tuesday.

The latest deaths include:

  • A Sanpete County man between the ages of 65 and 84, who was hospitalized when he died.
  • An Iron County man, 45-64, long-term care facility resident.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 25-44, hospitalized.
  • A Duchesne County woman, 25-44, hospitalized.
  • A Uintah County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man, older than 85, hospitalized.
  • A Tooele County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Davis County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man, older than 85, unknown if hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man, older than 85, unknown if hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man, 65-84, unknown if hospitalized.

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