SALT LAKE CITY — Utah saw 175 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday with no new deaths, the first in 12 days that no fatalities were reported.
© Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
A security guard stands at the entrance of a testing station at the University of Utah Health’s Sugar House Health Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
The latest confirmed cases bring the total to 4,123. Meanwhile, nearly 5,500 more tests were given, bringing the total to 95,702, according to the Utah Department of Health.
The state’s rate of positives among those tested has decreased to 4.3%.
While Utah appears to be flattening the curve as social distancing measures remain in place, some discussion has centered around herd immunity and how it might be achieved for society to return to normal. Some have expressed frustration about social distancing restrictions delaying the possibility of herd immunity.
Just under 3% of the state so far has been tested. Utah can run up to 9,000 tests per day, according to Gov. Gary Herbert, but an average of between 4,000 and 6,000 people have gotten tested each day for the past several days.
For Utah to reach herd immunity, between 60% and 80% of residents would need to be immune. State officials don’t believe that will happen until a vaccine becomes available, according to Dr. Angela Dunn, epidemiologist with the Utah Health Department.
We remain between 12 and 18 months away from a vaccine being ready, Dunn said Friday.
The Utah Leads Together 2.0 plan — under which officials are outlining their decisions for fighting the virus and eventually reopening the economy — estimates the state might not fully recover and return to a new normal until March 2022.
Nationally, health officials and experts have faced challenges estimating how many people have actually carried the virus. The shortage of testing supplies early on is partly to blame, said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious diseases physician at Boston University School of Medicine, in a media briefing Friday via Zoom.
And reports that autopsies in California and Washington found some died from the virus as early as January without having traveled outside the country has further thrown off beliefs about the virus’ spread, Bhadelia said.
“We’re off” in terms of how many people we think might be infected and when infections started appearing, she said.
“We now have science that says … there might be a significant proportion of the population that may get this disease” and never show symptoms, Bhadelia said.
Further, researchers are still studying the level of antibodies a person needs to be immune, and how long immunity might last. Antibody testing, which has been widely discussed but has not begun on a widespread level, will be key in determining potential immunity.
Antibody tests aren’t yet helpful on an individual level, as false positive and negative rates aren’t yet known — a person who finds they had the virus through an antibody test won’t yet be able to rely on that result, Bhadelia explained.
But on a population level, it will be helpful in piecing together the transmission rate mystery.
“Even though we don’t know what it means for the person … over a population, it matters a little bit less when you have small portions” of inaccurate tests, she said.
Forty-one people have died in Utah with the disease, most of whom were described as over age 60 with underlying health conditions. At least half were staying in long-term care facilities.
Sixteen more people were hospitalized with the disease since Saturday, meaning 345 people have required hospitalization at some point during the pandemic in Utah.
The majority of new cases and hospitalizations reported Sunday are in Salt Lake County, which saw 93 additional cases and 12 more hospitalizations. Utah County saw the second largest jump in cases, with 52 more confirmed.
A breakdown of Utah COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:
Salt Lake County, 2,144; 194 hospitalized; 24 deaths. Utah County, 777; 42 hospitalized; 7 deaths. Summit County, 357; 32 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Davis County, 275; 22 hospitalized; 2 deaths. Weber-Morgan, 145; 18 hospitalized; 2 deaths. Wasatch County, 138; 6 hospitalized; 1 death. Southwest Utah, 87; 9 hospitalized; 2 deaths. Bear River, 60; 10 hospitalized; 1 death. Tooele County, 54; 5 hospitalized; 0 deaths. San Juan County, 43; 5 hospitalized; 2 deaths. Central Utah, 21; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Southeast Utah, 12; 0 hospitalized; 0 deaths. TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 10; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.