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© Rick Egan
(Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) Commissioner Bill Lee speaks during a rally protesting against face masks being required in schools, before the Utah County Commission meeting in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. County commissioners in Utah postponed the meeting Wednesday where they were expected to discuss mask mandates after people packed the room and ignored social distancing guidelines.

After a decline in new cases at the start of the week, cases ballooned back up on Thursday when the state saw 954 new cases reported. Sunday saw an additional 785 cases, bringing the state’s weekly total at 3,848, as reported by the Utah Department of Health.

The state had no new deaths to report Sunday. Of the 243 total deaths, Utah saw 28 deaths this week.

Tuesday’s deaths (10) was Utah’s first double-digit death tally and new daily record.

Thursday’s new high, however, wasn’t considered all new — if not newly reported. Of Thursday’s reported positive cases, 251 were the result of antigen testing from early June, 50 cases were diagnosed the first week of July (due to an electronic data reporting delay) and 246 cases were diagnosed earlier in the week and were just added to the total case count.

While reporting from cases always comes in a day to a few days after testing, this was the first time the state made it a point to break up the numbers and explain when they were acquired.

Putting Thursday’s numbers aside, Sunday marks the third consecutive day with more than 700 cases reported.

There are also 102 people currently in intensive care units with the coronavirus — the highest since the pandemic started. Overall, 65% of the state’s ICU beds are now occupied with patients.

Utah County saw an increase of 139 cases on Sunday, the fourth day with at least 100 cases — a record for that area. Salt Lake County had 347 new cases reported.

Just before Thursday’s record-breaking numbers came out, dozens of parents gathered into a small boardroom for a Utah County commission meeting Wednesday afternoon, objecting for more than two hours to having their kids wear masks. Not only did the majority not wear masks, but people pulled tape off seats meant to provide social distancing and crowded in against the walls.

After the event in Provo, a second rally started in Salt Lake City hours later. Salt Lake City School District was the only district not allowed to reopen because the capital city remains in “orange,” or moderate, risk status for the virus. Meaning, classes were supposed to continue online.

During Thursday’s news conference, Gov. Gary Herbert announced he had rewritten the state’s coronavirus risk levels, allowing Salt Lake City schools to welcome back students this fall — joining all other K-12 districts in Utah.

However, commenting on the rally in Provo in response to the mask mandate the day prior, Herbert said he was disappointed to see such a large crowd packed together, acting against health recommendations, and called them “foolish.”

On Thursday, there was another reminder of Utah’s failed attempt to slow the spread.

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington D.C., obtained a document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force — but not publicized — that suggested more than a dozen states should go back to more stringent protective measures.

Utah was one of the 18 states in the “red zone,” meaning the state has had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week.

Utah’s rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 637 per day. The rolling seven-day average for percent of positive tests is 10.0%. On Sunday, the state recorded an increase of 6,582 tests from the day prior.

The new positive test rate of 10% also moves Utah into the “red zone” for test positivity as well.

Of the total cases, 20,915 are considered “recovered” — meaning the diagnosis date was more than three weeks ago and the person has not died.

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