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Utahs alarmingly high coronavirus positive rate goes up again – Salt Lake Tribune

Utah’s alarmingly high coronavirus positive rate goes up again

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Christy Danielson tests patients for Covid-19 at the Intermountain Healthcare Cottonwood InstaCare on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020.

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Utah set another record Monday for the percentage of coronavirus tests that are positive, at 27.1% for the past week — indicating a large number of infected residents are not being tested and may be spreading the virus unwittingly.

And with the 2,231 new coronavirus cases reported Monday, Utah’s rate of new diagnoses continued to rise.

For the past week, the state has averaged 3,125 new positive test results a day, up from about 2,300 daily cases a week ago, the Utah Department of Health reported. There were 7,551 new test results reported Monday, far below the weeklong average of more than 13,000 new tests per day.

The high average rate for positive tests “could be an indicator there are a lot of cases walking around that we don’t know about yet,” said Tom Hudachko, spokesman for the state health department. “Usually a high percentage positivity indicates we are not catching all of the positive cases.”

The previous high for that seven-day average rate was 24.6% on Nov. 16. After that, the average rate slid to 21.3% on Nov. 27, “which also coincided with a decrease in cases,” Hudachko said.

Since then, he noted, the seven-day averages for both the positivity rate and case counts have climbed again.

Utah’s death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 949 Monday, with 10 fatalities reported since Sunday:

  • Two Salt Lake County women, one age 65 to 84 and the other older than 85.

  • A Salt Lake County man older than 85.

  • A Sanpete County man, age 65 to 84.

  • A Utah County woman, age 65 to 84.

  • A Utah County man, age 65 to 84.

  • A Weber County woman, age 65 to 84.

  • A Weber County man, age 65 to 84.

  • A Washington County woman, age 65 to 84.

  • A Washington County man, age 65 to 84.

Hospitalizations held steady, with 582 Utah patients concurrently admitted — a bit below Sunday’s hospital count, but continuing a rise in the week-long average, UDOH reported.

The intensive care units were about 91% full in Utah’s major hospitals, which receive most of the state’s severely-ill COVID-19 patients.

However, doctors and hospital administrators have said that figure does not account for staffing fluctuations as doctors and nurses are forced to quarantine. It also doesn’t account for the demand for specialists and equipment needed specifically by coronavirus patients, who now make up an unprecedented share of ICU patients.

Doctors have said those resources become overstretched, causing the quality of care to decline, if ICUs are more than 85% occupied.

Statewide, ICU beds have been more than 85% full since last Wednesday. But at the large, “referral” hospitals, ICUs have been more than 85% full on every day except two since Nov. 11.

In total, 8,896 Utahns have been hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, with 761 of those in the past week alone.

— Reporter Sean P. Means contributed to this story.

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