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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials Thursday reported 1,981 new COVID-19 cases in the state and no additional deaths associated with it, but they said that may be the result of "technical difficulties" with the state's reporting system.
The state has now surpassed 600,000 cases of the coronavirus since the first case was reported in March 2020, following Thursday's update. The Utah Department of Health reports 600,079 positive cases have been identified over the span of nearly 21 months.
With the update, the state's seven-day rolling average for new cases is now 1,265 per day, while the positive rate of those tested is 14.6% using the "people over people" and 9.7% "tests over tests" methods.
State data shows there were back-to-back days, Tuesday and Wednesday, of over 2,000 new cases reported in Utah for the first time since Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. Most of the new cases reported Thursday involved adults; school-age children represented 353 of the new cases — 161 were ages 5-10, 85 were 11-13, and 107 were 14-17, health officials said.
The department reports there are currently 519 Utahns hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, a slight increase from Wednesday's report. Department data shows about 65% of all non-intensive care unit beds are currently occupied and 91% of all ICUs are occupied statewide.
COVID-19 accounts for about 39% of the ICU bed capacity at referral centers, where ICU bed occupancy is currently 96%. Both the statewide and referral center percentages are above what's considered the "utilization threshold" and have been for weeks.
While there were no new deaths reported Thursday, the agency reported there were "technical difficulties" in its reporting system Wednesday. Any new deaths that would have been reported Thursday may be reported as early as Friday.
Health care workers administered 19,525 vaccine doses since the previous day's report, bringing the total doses given in Utah to 4,175,180. About 69% of all Utahns age 5 or above have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while a little over 60% are considered fully vaccinated. The department also reports that 426,998 Utahns have received a booster of the vaccine.
Changes in reporting find more breakthrough cases
Department officials also on Thursday announced they recently made a change in the process of reporting "breakthrough" cases — cases among those considered fully vaccinated — that resulted in a surge of new breakthrough cases reported in the state.
Prior to this week, information about breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been compiled manually by department officials. The department reports that it has now automated the process by linking two databases containing vaccination and case information.
"The database linkage allowed the department to identify additional breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths dating back to the beginning of the vaccine rollout that were not identified through the previous, manual process," said Jenny Johnson, a spokeswoman for the department, in a statement.
As a result, the total number of breakthrough cases jumped about 15%, first seen in Wednesday's report. As of Thursday, there have been 49,594 breakthrough cases among over 1.7 million vaccinated Utahns. It represents about 2.8% of all fully-vaccinated residents in the state.
While the number increased, Johnson said the trends between vaccinated and unvaccinated people remains "stable," which she added is "further evidence the COVID-19 vaccines are very good at protecting people against hospitalization and death."
In the last 28 days, unvaccinated residents have experienced a 3.5 times greater risk of testing positive for the disease, a 9.1 times greater risk of hospitalization and 13.5 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 than vaccinated people, the health department said.
The department also reports that unvaccinated residents have experienced a 2.6 times greater risk of testing positive for the disease, a 5.6 times greater risk of hospitalization and 6.7 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 since Feb. 1.