SALT LAKE CITY — The state health department updated its COVID-19 dashboard Monday, which provided Utahns some new statistics regarding how the coronavirus is affecting people in the state.
Most noticeably, health officials added a section dedicated to cases in Utah’s schools. There were also slight adjustments to other sections in the latest update.
Here is a look into what the updates to the health department tell us about the coronavirus in Utah.
COVID-19 in schools
We knew this data was coming. The Salt Lake County Health Department officials said in late August the state would provide school COVID-19 information in some form; Salt Lake County first released this data within its jurisdiction earlier this month.
The state data is now available for Utahns to see not just on an overall scale but on a district-by-district basis.
A total of 2,096 cases, or nearly 3% of Utah’s 72,136 cumulative COVID-19 cases dating back to March, are attributed to the 2020-21 school year, through Tuesday evening. Nearly 50% of the cases were reported over the past two weeks.
With 1,505 total cases, students account for over 70% of all school cases so far and about 75% of new cases over the past two weeks. Teachers account for another 297 total cases, with 129 of those reported over the past 14 days. Another 294 total cases were listed as “unknown.”
The data also shows which districts are the hardest hit. There were 470 cases reported at Alpine School District in Utah County, which is a little more than one-fifth of all school-related cases through Tuesday. A total of 239 cases were listed as active, which also tops all school districts.
Canyons School District in southern Salt Lake County is second with 288 cases, including 158 active cases. Salt Lake County Health Department data points high schools as a top driver of cases, although cases were reported at all levels.
Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon and Jordan high schools, as well as Draper Park Middle School have some of the highest case counts within the district. All five schools reportedly had greater or equal to 15 new cases over the last two weeks. The health department also reported Hillcrest High School had 15 or more cases overall but less than 15 cases over the past two weeks.
Davis School District was third with 259 total cases, including 120 active cases.
Jordan School District in Salt Lake County followed with 206 total cases, with 118 active. Again, county data pointed to high schools as a driving factor with Mountain Ridge, Riverton and West Jordan high schools experiencing the highest rates. The district voted Tuesday to move Mountain Ridge and West Jordan high schools to online learning for at least the next two weeks, although board members said they believed the majority of cases were tied to activities outside of class.
Granite School District, also in Salt Lake County, was fifth with 199 cases, including 83 active cases. Kearns, Olympus and Skyline high schools all reported over 15 total cases but no school in the district had more than 15 cases over the past 14 days, according to county data.
Nebo School District in Utah County was the only other district with at least 100 total cases reported.
Twenty-five of the 49 total public and private districts on the dashboard reported fewer than five total cases. Four other districts reported fewer than 10 total cases. Central Utah-Private, Duchesne County, Iron County, Juab County, Millard, Rich, Southwest Utah-Charter, Tooele County and Uintah school districts all reported no new cases over the past two weeks, through Tuesday night.
Of note, there are 15 total cases associated with the Salt Lake City School District. The district began the school year with distance learning and announced Tuesday it would extend that through at least Nov. 9.
How the virus spreads in Utah
Known contact and community spread and other COVID-19 transmission data is a statistic the Utah Department of Health previously provided but briefly removed to retool. The new data not only shows how COVID-19 is spread but how that compared to previous points in the pandemic.
The new data shows that known contact, community, and unknown/pending spread is all up in September, which makes sense given the recent surge in cases. The percentage of known contact spread remains about 72%, according to data available Tuesday; that’s about where it was on Aug. 2.
Community spread remained around 13% for the first few months of the pandemic but reached 20.5% on Sept. 6. Those are cases where it’s unknown how the virus was contracted within the community. It was listed as 16.5% from when the pandemic began through about Sept. 20. Another 11.7% of cases were pending investigation, and it’s possible those could be added to community spread later.
Among known contact transmission, the percentage of household transmission dropped while social gathering-related cases rose over the last little bit. On Sept. 13, the state reported 32% of known contact spread were attributed to household transmission. That’s compared to nearly 50% in April, back when there were the strongest COVID-19-related restrictions in the state.
Spread from social events jumped from 4% in mid-July to 17% on Sept. 13. Workplace spread peaked at nearly 25% at the end of May before it dropped to about 6% on Sept. 13.
The state health department does note that causes are not mutually exclusive, so it’s possible spread between known contacts could have happened in multiple ways.
Again, another statistic previously provided but now enhanced. Pre-existing conditions reached the center of attention in August after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report noted 94% of COVID-19 deaths included comorbidity factors.
The state health department reports that people who have a pre-existing condition accounted for just 23% of all COVID-19 cases through Tuesday; however, people with pre-existing conditions make up a little more than half of all hospitalizations.
Both statistics could be higher since the state does note it is unknown if someone has a pre-existing condition among 47% of all Utah’s cases and about one-third of all hospitalizations.
Those with hypertension and diabetes accounted for the most hospitalizations among people with known pre-existing conditions despite having relatively low percentages of overall cases. Those with hypertension accounted for 6% of cases but 24% of hospitalizations, while those with diabetes accounted for 5% of cases and 24% of hospitalizations.
The separation of diabetes types is a new statistic. People diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes account for 68% of diabetes cases and 70.5% of hospitalizations among those with diabetes, which shows a very slight — if any — increase of risk for those with Type 2 diabetes.
Cardiovascular, chronic pulmonary, severe/morbid obesity and former smokers all accounted for at least 10% of hospitalizations. The data helps show which groups with pre-existing conditions are statistically more likely to suffer from severe COVID-19 outcomes than others.
Incidence rate map
It’s not that the state health department didn’t have a two-week incidence map prior to Monday’s update, but the map is now more visible and better shows where cases are rising now as compared to cumulative cases dating back to March.
A two-week map shows where active cases are, and where they are most prevalent. This is helpful considering more than 50,000 cases are already determined to be recovered, which means those cases are no longer active.
“The two-week cumulative incidence rate summarizes new cases reported in the past 14 days per 100,000 people. It looks at the recent burden of cases in an area given its population. Areas with elevated incidence rates will have a higher burden of ill people who may be infectious and/or currently accessing healthcare,” the department states on its website.
All but Daggett and Wayne counties reported no new cases over the past 14 days. The severity of new cases is determined by rate, which is new cases per 100,000 residents.
The Wasatch Front, northern Utah and the western portion of central Utah reported the highest rates with a rate of over 200 new cases per 100,000 residents. Counties in the “very high” rate as of Tuesday night were, in alphabetical order: Cache, Davis, Juab, Millard, Rich, Salt Lake, Summit, Utah, Wasatch and Weber.
Since we’re talking about the case rate per 100,000, some of the counties have a rate fewer than 200 total cases but also have lower populations. For example, Rich County reported eight new cases, but that equates to a rate of 324.7 cases per 100,000.
Utah County, with 878.3 new cases per 100,000, had the highest rate through Tuesday night. It was followed by Salt Lake (425.4), Rich (324.7), Wasatch (318.9) and Cache (310.1) counties.
Box Elder, Carbon, Emery, Iron, Morgan, San Juan, Tooele and Washington Counties are listed as having “high” rates, which means rates ranging between 100 and 200 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.
Some southern Utah counties, like Beaver, Garfield, Grand and Piute counties, reported a case rate up to five new cases per 100,000 at most. The incidence rate was also considered low in Duchesne, Sanpete, Sevier and Uintah Counties — with 10 new cases at most, as of Tuesday evening.
In short, the map shows not only where COVID-19 cases are the highest but that there is at least some risk just about anywhere in the state.
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