Health officials report second highest single-day COVID-19 death toll

Dec 8, 2020, 7:10 PM | Updated: 7:11 pm
(Debbie York, RN, checks a COVID-19 test at Rice-Eccles Stadium.  Credit: Yukai Peng, Deseret News,...
(Debbie York, RN, checks a COVID-19 test at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Credit: Yukai Peng, Deseret News, December 7, 2020.)
(Debbie York, RN, checks a COVID-19 test at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Credit: Yukai Peng, Deseret News, December 7, 2020.)

SALT LAKE CITY – A near-record number of COVID-19 deaths is being reported across Utah, even though the number of new daily cases is still on the decline.  Health officials say though the new number of daily cases is going down, hospitals aren’t feeling any kind of relief from the surge in cases of the past few months. 

Representatives from the Utah Department of Health say 23 deaths is the second-highest single-day number.  Department Spokesperson Jenny Johnson says the record one-day death total happened in late November, back when the number of new daily cases was much higher than it is now.  Analysts say clinics are reporting 2,333 new cases, today.

However, Johnson says new daily cases aren’t the number that people should be paying attention to.  She says the rate of infection and hospital bed utilization are the metrics people should be worried about.

“Hospitalizations lag about anywhere from one to two weeks after someone is diagnosed with COVID-19,” Johnson said. “The deaths and hospitalizations that we report today are from cases anywhere from two to three weeks ago.”

Doctors aren’t certain that we’ve seen the full impact of holiday get-togethers on the spread of the virus, so they aren’t sure if hospitalizations and deaths are going to decline soon.  The rolling seven-day average of new cases is still around 3,100.  Plus, she says large referral hospitals are “over-maxed.”

Johnson said, “We’re at 91 percent ICU capacity.  We’re still in a lot of trouble.”

Another troubling number is Utah’s rate of infection.  Johnson says it’s still sky-high at 27 percent, which means there are many more infected people spreading the virus without knowing it.

“It’s the same pattern we saw during the summer with the summer holidays.  People just aren’t likely to go get tested, even if they should,” she said.

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Health officials report second highest single-day COVID-19 death toll