SALT LAKE CITY — After appearing this week as one of 18 “red zone” states with high rates of new COVID-19 cases in an unpublished report created for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Utah again saw a high number of new cases on Friday.

© Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
TestUtah workers conduct COVID-19 testing at a site near the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

The Beehive State confirmed 727 new cases as 8,278 more tests were reported, an 8.8% positive rate, according to the Utah Department of Health. Since the pandemic began, 32,572 positives out of 447,806 tests have been recorded, with a 7.3% positive rate.

The average daily new cases for the past seven days is 599, down from over 600 the previous seven days.

According to the report to the White House, which was shared Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity, Utah had 140 new cases out of 100,000 people in the past week compared to the national average of 119. Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties saw the highest rate of new cases, accounting for 74.6% of the state’s new cases.

The report makes recommendations to state leaders to curb the pandemic, including returning to a ban on gatherings with more than 10 people, closing bars and gyms in “hotspot counties,” limiting indoor dining, and continuing to increase testing and contact tracing. A statewide mask mandate did not appear on the list of recommendations.

“The White House sends us regular reports on Utah’s COVID-19 status, including data and recommendations. The data seems to correspond well with our own data, and we appreciate their suggestions. Those recommendations generally track well with the actions our state and local health departments are already pursuing, though of course our actions are more targeted on the specific circumstances of our outbreaks,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s office said in a statement.

Meanwhile, projections from the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation now paint a more grim picture in Utah.

The institute projects Utah could see 1,213 deaths from the disease by November. In April, the researchers had projected a potential 202 deaths, which Utah has already surpassed by 33.

If universal masking happens in the state, the Seattle researchers believe far fewer deaths could occur, with 561 by November. They also project Utah could flatten its curve by November with mask-wearing, or see a large spike without widespread masking.

Case projections come with a much wider range of possibilities — the institute estimates that without statewide masking, the state could see between 475 and 14,000 daily cases by November, compared to between 20 and 1,300 new daily cases with universal masking.

Projections come with many unknowns and have been ever changing as restrictions are implemented and then loosened, the researchers noted. Utah officials have said they are watching those out of Seattle and others as they make decisions in the pandemic.

Utah’s Friday totals

Now, 198 people are hospitalized in Utah with the novel coronavirus, 96 of whom are in intensive care units. Intensive care beds in the state are 70.5% full, and beds in nonintensive care units are 54.7% full. Just under 2,000 people have required hospitalization for the disease in Utah since the pandemic began.

Another death was also reported Friday, a Weber County man between 65-84 who was hospitalized when he died. He brings the state’s toll from COVID-19 to 235.

Just under 20,000 Utahns are now considered recovered from the coronavirus after passing the three-week point since their diagnoses.

As of Thursday, the state is including antigen test results in its daily case counts. Like the PCR test, which previously provided the only results included in the state’s totals, the antigen test is given through a nasal swab and detects a COVID-19 protein, but returns results faster, state health officials said. Antibody, or serology, tests — which detect past infections — are not included in the state’s totals.

The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district: Salt Lake County, 15,887; 1,068 hospitalized; 133 deaths. Utah County, 5,950; 290 hospitalized; 30 deaths. Southwest Utah, 2,317; 128 hospitalized; 19 deaths. Davis County, 2,183; 127 hospitalized; 7 deaths. Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 1,866; 72 hospitalized; 4 deaths. Weber-Morgan, 1,928; 119 hospitalized; 19 deaths. Summit County, 612; 50 hospitalized; 1 death. San Juan County, 500; 65 hospitalized; 18 deaths. Wasatch County, 476; 20 hospitalized; 4 deaths. Tooele County, 413; 18 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Central Utah, 295; 19 hospitalized; 0 deaths. TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 90; 7 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Southeast Utah, 55; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.

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