“This is a tragic reminder that while there is a lot of hope on the horizon with the vaccine, we still have quite a long ways to go and we need to continue being vigilant to protect individuals against unnecessary illness and death,” health department state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said at a Thursday news conference.
The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 2,570, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period is now 22.3%.
Also Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced that the 10 p.m. curfew for selling alcohol at restaurants and bars in the state will be lifted starting Friday.
Herbert announced the news Thursday morning during the final PBS Utah news conference before he leaves office.
Restaurants and bars in the state agreed to several provisions to keep their spaces safe for patrons as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Herbert said. They’re willing to require social distancing, maintain limited capacities and require mask wearing at all times unless patrons are eating or drinking. Additionally, people will have to be stationary inside the restaurant or bar while they are eating or drinking, so people can’t walk around a bar carrying a drink in their hand, Herbert said.
Herbert also announced that quarantine guidelines for students at Utah schools will change after the first of the year. Students who had a close contact with another student who tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to stay in the classroom, so long as all students were wearing masks at the time of the contact, Herbert announced.
Data shows that classrooms are a low-risk environment for COVID-19 transmission, so state leaders made the decision to update those guidelines, Herbert said.
The governor added that he believes most teachers would welcome measures to keep students in classrooms because in-person learning is more effective than remote instruction.
State leaders hope to vaccinate Utah teachers by mid-January, and in the meantime, teachers are able to get tested for COVID-19 every week if they wish to do so, Herbert said.
“That will help give them some confidence, I think, going forward and hopefully boost morale,” he said. “Our teachers have (shown) up every day to do their part, and so we thank them, we recognize their good work.
PBS Utah hosts monthly news conferences with the governor, and Thursday’s conference was Herbert’s final appearance on the event before his successor, Gov.-elect Spencer Cox, takes office.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, along with Utah Department of Health interim director Rich Saunders and state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, spoke at a COVID-19 news conference Thursday. Watch the replay of the event below.
The health department now estimates there are 56,228 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah as of Thursday.
The new numbers indicate a 1.3% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 1,613,248 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 15.1% have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 12,885 new people were tested for COVID-19 as of Thursday out of an additional 18,175 tests conducted, state data shows.
There are now 556 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, state data shows. Of those, 211 are occupying intensive care unit beds across the state of Utah. About 96% of all ICU beds in the state of Utah are occupied as of Thursday, and state data shows ICUs at the state’s 16 referral hospitals are now over capacity. About 57% of non-ICU hospital beds in the state are now occupied, according to the health department.
Thursday’s totals give Utah 243,918 total confirmed cases, with 9,791 total hospitalizations and 1,126 total deaths from the disease.
Watch the replay of Herbert’s PBS Utah news conference below.
Test results now include data from PCR tests and antigen tests. Positive COVID-19 test results are reported to the health department immediately after they are confirmed, but negative test results may not be reported for 24 to 72 hours.
The total number of cases reported by the Utah Department of Health each day includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah’s outbreak began, including those who are currently infected, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.
Recovered cases are defined as anyone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 three or more weeks ago and has not died.
Referral hospitals are the 16 Utah hospitals with the capability to provide the best COVID-19 health care.
Deaths reported by the state typically occurred two to seven days prior to when they are reported, according to the health department. Some deaths may be from even further back, especially if the person is from Utah but has died in another state.
The health department reports both confirmed and probable COVID-19 case deaths per the case definition outlined by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. The death counts are subject to change as case investigations are completed.
For deaths that are reported as COVID-19 deaths, the person would not have died if they did not have COVID-19, according to the health department.
Data included in this story primarily reflects the state of Utah as a whole. For more localized data, visit your local health district’s website.
More information about Utah’s health guidance levels is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels.
Information is from the Utah Department of Health and coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts. For more information on how the Utah Department of Health compiles and reports COVID-19 data, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts and scroll down to the “Data Notes” section at the bottom of the page.
This story will be updated.
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