Major drop in projected Utah coronavirus deaths, state still preparing for possible overflow at hospitals

Apr 6, 2020, 6:05 PM
Major drop in projected Utah coronavirus deaths, state still preparing for possible overflow at hos...
(Some of the 260 beds set up at the Mountain America Expo Center as part the alternate care facility designed to handle possible overflow patients from hospitals. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(Some of the 260 beds set up at the Mountain America Expo Center as part the alternate care facility designed to handle possible overflow patients from hospitals. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SANDY – Researchers in Washington state are making a massive drop in the number of projected Utah coronavirus deaths.

But, what if they’re wrong?

Emergency officials say they’re ready if the hospitals get overwhelmed because of coronavirus.  They’ve set up an alternate care facility in Sandy, which can handle hundreds of patients if needed.

Officials with the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation once predicted 619 people would die in Utah because of coronavirus, with over 30 deaths happening per day, on some days.  However, they’ve received what they call “a massive infusion of new data.”  Now, they project 186 deaths, which could hit their peak on April 26th.

Utah Department of Health State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn says there are several reasons for this big drop in projected deaths.  For instance, she says Utah’s younger population is a big factor since many of the more serious cases happen in older adults.

“We have a large percentage of our population that’s [younger] than 65 years,” she says.

(State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn, right, and ASL interpreter Clay Anderson, right, describing the lower number of projected deaths statewide. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Plus, she says Utah’s case count is still relatively low, with roughly five percent of people being tested coming back as conformed carriers.  Researchers from Washington also say more cities have hit their peak number of cases, which helps them predict when the pandemic will end in those places.

Another positive prediction is that Utah will have enough beds to deal with the projected number of cases.

Dunn says, “We’re hopeful that those prediction hold true, but we’re preparing for the case that they might not be.”




The Department of Emergency Management has already set up an alternate care center with 260 beds in the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy to treat patients if hospitals are overburdened with COVID-19 patients.  They can expand the facility to handle up to 1,000 if they have to.  Department Spokesman Joe Dougherty says they hope no one needs to stay there.

“Currently, the hospitals are in pretty good shape,” Dougherty says.

The new care center has places where emergency teams can meet to discuss how they’ll deal with their patients.  It also has places for nursing staff to sleep and it’s stocked with a pharmacy.  The plan is to keep this facility free of COVID-19 patients, but that might change.

“We could transition a facility like this to be a COVID-19 care facility, if we need to,” he says.  “There are going to be all the regular ways of checking blood pressure.  There will be systems for delivering intravenous fluids, if needed.  There will be all sorts of braces and splints and all of the things you would find in a traditional hospital.”

Even if the number of projected deaths and infections is going down, Dougherty says that doesn’t mean we need to stop social distancing.  He says that’s still the best way to slow down the spread of the virus.

Dougherty says, “What we need to do is we need to look at this virus as if [you] might be a carrier of that virus.  [Ask yourself], ‘How am I going to make sure that I don’t spread this to anybody else?’”



How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus 


COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading: 

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.  
  • Don’t touch your face. 
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet) 
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.) 
  • Get a flu shot. 

Resources for more information: 



State of Utah: 

Utah State Board of Education 

Utah Hospital Association 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707 

National Links 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization 

Cases in the United States  



Five additional coronavirus deaths reported in Utah

Hill Air Force Base medical reservists deployed to New York to help with COVID-19

Salt Lake anti-doping group funds COVID-19 research project



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