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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials reported 1,805 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, as well as nine deaths.
School-age children accounted for 418 of the latest cases — 191 were children ages 5-10, 100 were ages 11-13, and 127 were ages 14-17, according to a daily update provided by the Utah Department of Health.
The rolling, seven-day average for positive tests is now 1,436 per day, and the average for percent positivity of those tested is 15.4%
Although Utah has been experiencing a plateau in cases, two critical care nurses on Thursday pleaded for support as they say they remain overwhelmed with hospitalizations.
Matthew Pain, a nurse at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, discussed the daily duties and burden of his work in videos taken inside the hospital, which were provided to reporters by the hospital system.
His job includes giving patients with COVID-19 oxygen, managing their medications, and helping them with countless other activities. He said he wakes up for work "in just enough time to get here, because we're exhausted."
"Kind of what I have to plan is: Am I going to have COVID patients today? Am I going to be the lucky one who doesn't have COVID today?"
He said he goes to work mentally preparing himself with the question: "Is this going to be a day where a patient dies?"
Standing in front of an empty hospital room, Pain said rooms usually remain empty no longer than two hours before a new patient arrives.
Maddie Blackburn, another nurse at Intermountain Medical Center, said caring for patients with COVID-19 is becoming "the new normal — which is not awesome."
"I've seen more death in the last like half of my career than I did ever in my first half, and it's sad to say that I'm good at it now. I'm good at taking care of patients that are on their last leg, and that's really hard," Blackburn said.
She said the difference between her first 18 months working in an intensive care unit and the recent 18 months is that patients would stay for a week or two, and they were considered long-term. But now, patients with COVID-19 are sometimes remaining there for months, she said.
Blackburn said she's had to learn to cope with the stresses of her job and find new ways to feed joy because her job has been so difficult.
She said she wants people to know that although cases are going down, hospitals remain full. And health care workers feel "defeated" and hurt.
"We literally do everything for these patients, and then they're gone. … It's hard to do some of the things we have to do," Blackburn said.
She said health care workers need residents to "do things at home" to help them. Blackburn urged residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and to express appreciation to those who work in health care.
Latest Utah data
Health care workers administered another 13,347 vaccine doses since Wednesday's report, bringing total doses given in the state to 3,539,053.
The state health department announced it has changed how it calculates risk ratios for unvaccinated residents on the statewide COVID-19 dashboard. The department is now reporting age-adjusted risk ratios.
"This is an important update that more accurately reflects the risk for the overall population. The change will result in higher risk ratios for the unvaccinated for being hospitalized and dying. This is because the prior method, that did not age-adjust, biased the data toward older adults who are more likely to be both vaccinated and hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than younger people. By age-adjusting, we are better reflecting the true risk for all Utahns," officials with the department said in a statement.
According to the new age-adjusted data, in the last 28 days unvaccinated residents have faced 16.1 times greater risk of dying from the coronavirus, 12.2 times greater risk of being hospitalized, and 6.9 times greater risk of testing positive.
Since Feb. 1, the unvaccinated have seen 9.8 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 7.8 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 4.1 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, the state health department said.
Thursday's cases included 446 "breakthrough" cases, meaning they had been fully vaccinated more than two weeks ago. The state also confirmed 25 new breakthrough hospitalizations and two 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 20,252 breakthrough cases, 1,036 breakthrough hospitalizations and 133 breakthrough deaths. There have been 2,983 total COVID-19 deaths in Utah during the pandemic.
On Thursday, 567 patients were receiving treatment for the disease in Utah hospitals, a decrease of eight since the previous day.
The latest deaths were:
- An Iron County woman, between 45 and 64, who was not hospitalized when she died.
- Three Salt Lake County men, 65-84, all hospitalized.
- A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Sevier County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Utah County woman, older than 85, hospitalized.
- A Wasatch County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.
- A Washington County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.