Utah reports 39 deaths, 3,128 COVID cases; new program aims to help 'long-haulers'

Nathan Graham tries not to sneeze as he swabs his nose for a COVID-19 test at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Jan. 31. Utah reported over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 39 deaths.

Nathan Graham tries not to sneeze as he swabs his nose for a COVID-19 test at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Jan. 31. Utah reported over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 39 deaths. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials on Monday reported 3,128 new COVID-19 cases since Friday, as well as 39 additional deaths.

Although most of those who developed a new case over the weekend will recover without issues over the next few days or weeks, some people may end up developing long-term COVID-19 symptoms. There's a new resource now available for those people who develop symptoms that last beyond three months.

It only took a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic for Dr. Dixie Harris to realize that the disease had the potential to produce long-term impacts for some people.

Nearly two years since the first cases were identified in Utah, she and other health care providers continue to see a steady stream of patients with ongoing symptoms months after infection, often referred to as COVID-19 "long-haulers."

"Many of these patients aren't even hospitalized, do not even have bad infections but yet they have ongoing symptoms," said Harris, a pulmonologist with Intermountain Healthcare.

Now, anyone experiencing long-term symptoms will have a new resource to get medical treatment for the symptoms that just won't go away. Intermountain Healthcare announced Monday it is launching a new service that offers help to patients who have "persistent symptoms" — three months or more after a COVID-19 infection.

Utahns — and others in the Intermountain Healthcare service region — with ongoing symptoms 12 weeks after diagnosis of a COVID-19 case are encouraged to call 801-408-5888 to enroll in Intermountain's Long COVID Navigation Program, where they will be directed to appropriate treatments and resources.

Most people who develop a milder case of the coronavirus recover in a few days or within two weeks, although even healthy people still should be careful shortly after those days, as some may experience lingering effects. Some studies have suggested this occurs with as many as 30% to 40% of cases, according to Intermountain Healthcare experts.

Dr. Dixie Harris, a pulmonologist at Intermountain Healthcare, speaks about a new program for COVID-19 "long-hauler" patients from her office Monday morning.
Dr. Dixie Harris, a pulmonologist at Intermountain Healthcare, speaks about a new program for COVID-19 "long-hauler" patients from her office Monday morning. (Photo: Intermountain Healthcare)

Harris explains there are nearly a couple thousand documented long-term symptoms but the most frequent include profound fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, coughing, heart racing, chest pain and neurological issues.

"The navigator program was really started to try and bring in all these multi-specialties and get the patients to the right place in a quick time frame," added Dr. Ellie Hirshberg, a critical care medicine specialist with Intermountain.

For instance, if someone calls to report an ongoing heart issue related to COVID-19, a specialist can direct the caller to a cardiologist that can help.


It will get better, it just takes a long time.

–Dr. Ellie Hirshberg, critical care medicine specialist at Intermountain Healthcare


Since long-term cases have been known almost as long as COVID-19 itself, researchers and doctors have been able to piece together ways to help long-haulers. The good news, health care experts say, is they have been able to see improvements in patients through treatments, even if it's not right away.

Finding ways to repair disrupted sleep patterns is one of the ways patients say they've felt better with their symptoms. But some treatments require more attention.

"It will get better, it just takes a long time," Hirshberg said. "Many of the patients I've seen back at this point have really started to recover and started to improve."

University of Utah Health announced a similar clinic last week that also offers care to long-haulers still suffering effects long after a COVID-19 infection. Patients will receive treatment for their symptoms at the same time researchers can learn how and why long-term COVID-19 symptoms develop in certain people.

So why focus on long-haulers?

COVID-19 long-term cases are baffling experts because they have impacted different organ systems in "somewhat unusual ways," Hirshberg explains. There are also "higher numbers than we anticipated" when it comes to long-term COVID-19 symptoms.

While there are some viruses that have this long-term capability, experts haven't seen anything produce long-term symptoms quite as prevalent as COVID-19 has. In her experience, many long-hauler patients are frustrated with their ongoing symptoms that either progress or are just as bad as when they first got infected.

Her patients include younger, healthy people who didn't have pre-existing conditions, but now deal with fatigue and mental exhaustion so severe that they aren't able to return to pre-infection life. Some of the patients aren't even recovering as fast as her patients who needed hospitalization and intensive care because of COVID-19.

"(It) could be in part because there are so many people who are getting infected but it also seems like there's something a little different about the COVID molecule in that it affects several different organ systems directly, and then the sequelae — including chronic fatigue — can be associated with some sort of elevation of body's responses to the virus," she said.

Harris and Hirshberg say it appears the risk of developing long-term symptoms drops significantly if someone has been vaccinated beforehand. That's based on research and their own personal experiences. Hirshberg says none of her long-hauler patients were vaccinated before their long-term case.

Utah COVID-19 update

Of the 3,128 new COVID-19 cases reported by the Utah Department of Health Monday, 1,357 cases are from Friday, while 1,121 are from Saturday and another 660 are from Sunday. School-aged children account for 425 new cases.

The state's seven-day running average has dropped to 1,466 new cases per day, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to significantly subside from a peak of nearly 11,000 cases per day recorded on Jan. 18.

Utah's seven-day percent positivity through the "people over people" testing method is now 30.4%, dropping from a record 47.4% on Jan. 21. The rate from the "tests over tests" method is also down from 30.6% on Jan. 20 to 17.9%.

Meanwhile, the state health department reported 39 new deaths caused by COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 4,300 since March 2020. Twenty-three of the deaths happened before Jan. 14, although it wasn't specified when each person died.

The 39 people were described as:

  • A Box Elder County man between the ages of 65 and 84 who was hospitalized at the time of death.
  • A Cache County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Cache County man, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Cache County woman, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man, 25-44, not hospitalized.
  • Two Davis County men, 45-64, neither hospitalized.
  • A Davis County woman, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Davis County woman, 65-84, a resident of a long-term care facility.
  • A Davis County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • An Iron County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • Two Salt Lake County women, 65-84, neither hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, older than 85, resident of a long-term care facility.
  • A Sevier County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Uintah County woman, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Utah County woman, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man, older than 85, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man, 25-44, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man, older than 85, resident of a long-term care facility.
  • A Weber County woman, 24-44, not hospitalized.
  • Two Weber County women, 45-64, both hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man, 45-64, not hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man, 65-84, resident of a long-term care facility.
  • A Weber County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man, older than 85, hospitalized.

The state health department also reports 561 people currently hospitalized because of COVID-19. That's 73 fewer hospitalizations from Friday's report. It reports 11,302 vaccines were also administered over the weekend.

Testing sites for this week

Also on Monday, the Utah Department of Health announced its COVID-19 testing locations and times for the current week. The state removed all testing appointment requirements for all but two sites: the University of Utah tailgate parking lot in Salt Lake City and Utah Valley University parking lot 10 in Orem.

The state is still only using PCR tests as it reviews discrepancies in antigen rapid testing. The state's COVID-19 testing recommendations haven't changed even as the number of COVID-19 cases has dropped in the past few weeks.

People who are recommended to get tested for COVID-19:

  • Anyone with significant underlying conditions
  • Older Utahns
  • Anyone planning to visit someone who is considered vulnerable, such as anyone over 75 years old, or is immunocompromised or receiving immunosuppressive medication
  • Anyone who works with vulnerable populations, such as health care workers, long-term care facility employees, or people who live or work in congregate settings like prisons or homeless shelters
  • Anyone who has been sick and wants to confirm a negative test
  • Anyone traveling somewhere that requires a negative test

The full list of testing sites and times in Utah can be found here. Appointments can also be scheduled on the state health department's website.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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