SALT LAKE CITY — For the second day in a row, Utah reported its largest daily rise in COVID-19 cases with 546 more confirmed.
Saturday’s new cases surpass those reported Friday — the previous daily record — by 107.
Since Friday, 2,952 people were tested for the virus, according to the Utah Department of Health. The positive rate was about 18.5%.
The new coronavirus cases bring the Beehive State’s total since the outbreak began to 11,798. The positive rate of all 235,149 people tested in Utah rose to 5% on Saturday.
Dr. Angela Dunn, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said Friday evening she was surprised by the recent large spike in cases.
“This big jump has definitely made my heart stop. We’re in the time of the outbreak when we’re definitely in the acceleration phase, and unfortunately we’re also in the time of the outbreak when people are tired,” Dunn said.
“We’ve been asking people to do really hard things and make life changes that are uncomfortable, with staying at home, wearing a mask, social distance, you know: ‘Don’t do the things you’re used to doing.’ And now we need those actions more than ever, and so seeing this drastic increase along with the fatigue of people is really hard.”
One more coronavirus-related death was also reported Saturday: a Weber County man older than 85 who was a resident in a long-term care facility. He brings the state’s coronavirus death toll to 121.
Just under 7,000 of the state’s cases are considered recovered after passing the three-week point since their diagnoses.
Twenty more people required hospitalization in Utah with the disease since Friday. Now, 116 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state.
While hospital resource use remains below capacity, Dunn said that could soon change.
“We are in a good spot, but we do know that from the time someone’s infected, it takes a little bit over a week for them to be hospitalized if they’re going to be hospitalized. So these drastic increases will increase our hospitalization over the coming weeks, and we’ll watch them closely. If we need to make changes in the way we do health care to make sure everybody can get the care they need for COVID-19, we’ll do that,” she said.
There is “every indication,” Dunn said, that the number of cases will continue rising.
“I’m urging Utahns to really take heed, and try to have resolve and some resilience in terms of maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask when it’s possible, and staying home when you have the most mild of illnesses so that we can trend that curve back down,” she said.
The past week has brought a higher rate of new daily cases, officials have said, with more than 15% of Utah’s total confirmed cases. New case numbers began sharply rising mid-week.
New Utah COVID-19 cases over the past week:
Saturday, May 30: 269 new cases
Sunday, May 31: 264 new cases
On Saturday, 216 of the new cases were confirmed in the Bear River Health Department, which covers Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties. The area’s cases rose from 491 on Friday to 707 on Saturday.
Health officials announced Friday that an outbreak at a Logan meat processing facility resulted in many of the new cases, and the area expects more as additional testing and contact-tracing is underway.
Veterans’ advocate dies
A prominent Utah veterans’ advocate was announced Saturday as one of the state’s most recent COVID-19 deaths.
William E. Christoffersen died earlier this week at the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home, which bears his name. He died just ahead of his 94th birthday, the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs said in a statement.
Christoffersen “made it his goal” to see the veteran’s home built, according to the department. It opened in 1998 and was renamed for him in 2013.
“As a World War II veteran, William Christoffersen embodied the greatest generation and its commitment to service, personal responsibility and hard work,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement.
“The state of Utah named the William E. Christoffersen Veterans Home in his honor in 2013 as a tribute and reflection of his life’s work. Jeanette and I were saddened to hear of his passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,” he said.
Christofferson served for 75 years in the American Legion, officials said, and held many national and department offices. He served as a member of the National Executive Committee from 1963 to 1973 and again from 1975 to 2013.
“I had the distinct honor of meeting Bill for the first time in 2013. This giant of a man — both figuratively and physically — was inspirational,” Gary Harter, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs, said in the statement.
“He was a steadfast, dedicated champion who dedicated more than 70 years to helping veterans in Utah and across the nation. Utah and our country are better off because we had the opportunity to learn from Bill as he walked and fought for our veterans.”
Last week, the Utah Department of Health announced that dozens of residents and some staff members at the veterans’ home had tested positive for COVID-19.
The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:
Salt Lake County, 6,086; 518 hospitalized; 81 deaths.
Utah County, 2,183; 113 hospitalized; 17 deaths.
Southwest Utah, 584; 51 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
Davis County, 541; 49 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 707; 24 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
Summit County, 426; 39 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
Weber-Morgan, 376; 38 hospitalized; 8 deaths.
Wasatch County, 326; 15 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
San Juan County, 333; 30 hospitalized; 5 deaths.
Tooele County, 145; 9 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
Central Utah, 45; 3 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
Southeast Utah, 26; 0 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 20; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
Contributing: Dave McCann