SALT LAKE CITY — Utah announced eight more deaths with the novel coronavirus Tuesday, marking the highest number of fatalities reported in a single day since the pandemic hit the Beehive State.
© Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Tildy Van Wagenen, 6, is held by her mother as she is tested for COVID-19 by medical assistant Nicole Paepke at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo on Friday, May 8, 2020. In an effort to help address COVID-19 hot spots that have been identified in Utah County, the Intermountain Healthcare Coronavirus Mobile Testing Unit provided testing to area residents.
They bring the state’s toll to 88.
The new deaths include six Salt Lake County residents, three of whom were residents in long-term care facilities. One was a woman between 60 and 85, while two were women older than 85.
The other Salt Lake County deaths were two men between the ages of 60 and 85, and a man between the ages of 18 and 59, all three of whom were hospitalized when they died.
A Washington County man and a Utah County man, both between the ages of 60 and 85, also died while hospitalized.
No deaths had been reported on Monday.
The Beehive State will receive $87.4 million from the federal government to expand its COVID-19 testing capacity, officials announced Tuesday,
The millions in new funding is expected to aid in the fight against the disease now and into the future.
“This is not just an acute response for us at this point. This is something that is going to be part of the day-to-day activities of the public health department for the next many, many months, if not many years,” Tom Hudachko, Utah Department of Health spokesman, said Tuesday.
“To the extent that we can shore up this element of our response with some stable and additional funding, we certainly welcome that.”
Though testing materials when the pandemic hit the U.S. were in short supply, he said the supply chain has since stabilized. State officials are still working on their plan for how the funding will be used, according to Hudachko.
The money is provided through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act passed in April in response to the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is distributing $10.25 billion to states, cities and U.S. territories.
Utah’s testing capacity now stands at 9,000 per day. Daily testing numbers have averaged between 3,000 and 4,000 for the past several days.
Though below capacity, health officials see the steady numbers as a good sign that a large chunk of the state will get tested, as previously there were larger day-to-day dips in demand, Hudachko said.
Officials still aren’t listing a goal for the total number or percentage of Utahns they would like to get tested for the virus. Hudackho said the focus, rather, is on maintaining the daily capacity.
Utah has fared better than many other states in its testing numbers. As of the last report from the Utah Department of Health, 177,311 tests were performed in the state accounting for about 5.4% of the population — assuming few residents received more than one test.
Asymptomatic testing is not available in Utah on a large scale. Those with one of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 — fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, new loss of sense of taste or smell — even if it’s mild, is encouraged to get tested.
But some asymptomatic testing in at-risk populations like long-term care facilities is underway, Hudachko said.
Antibody, or serology testing has been touted by many health experts and officials as a way to understand the true disease burden and pave the way for a return to the new normal. The federal government will allow the funding to be used for or antibody testing, Hudachko said, but it’s not yet known if the state will do so.
Calling the funding “a historic investment in America’s ability to track and control the spread of the virus,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that “we must help Americans get safely back to work and school, and that requires continued expansion of testing, surveillance and contact tracing.”
States receiving the funding will need to submit to the federal government their plans and goals for testing, as well as how the money will be used.
Utah’s cases rose by 134 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 7,518. About 3,300 more tests were performed. The overall positive rate remains 4.2%.
New hospitalizations jumped to 24. For the past several days, they had ranged around 10. But the current number of people in hospitals with the virus fell slightly to 96 as some had been released.
The latest breakdown of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:
Salt Lake County, 4,019; 363 hospitalized; 61 deaths. Utah County, 1,537; 89 hospitalized; 12 deaths. Summit County, 403; 36 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Davis County, 373; 31 hospitalized; 2 deaths. Weber-Morgan, 234; 28 hospitalized; 3 deaths. Southwest Utah, 245; 18 hospitalized; 4 deaths. Wasatch County, 212; 10 hospitalized; 1 death. San Juan County, 238; 22 hospitalized; 4 deaths. Tooele County, 103; 6 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Bear River, 89; 13 hospitalized; 1 death. Central Utah, 30; 2 hospitalized; 0 deaths. TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 19; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Southeast Utah, 16; 0 hospitalized; 0 deaths.