‘Plateau’: Utah’s COVID-19 cases remain low despite worries of a potential spike

Coronavirus Updates

MURRAY (ABC4) – Utah has not seen the recent spike in Covid-19 cases other states have. Our numbers have stayed level, and now medical and political leaders are trying to keep it that way.

“We’re in a plateau right now,” Governor Spencer Cox said Thursday at his weekly Covid briefing.

Doctors credit the vaccines for taking us from more than 3,000 cases per day in January to less that 400 a day now.

“Cases are down and stable. The test positivity is about what it’s been,” Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Diseases Physician Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said Friday. “Hospitalizations are down and stable…We’re in a spot where we don’t have loads of people in our hospitals. That pressure has been taken off.”

Stenehjem says it’s a race between vaccinations and variants. About 25% of Utah’s population is now fully vaccinated.

“If we really want to move back to normality, if we want to move back to where we were pre-March 2020, it’s going to take all of us working together to get vaccinated,” he advises. “If we move back to a period where we’re all crowding in together, not wearing masks. You know I think about gymnasiums. I think about concerts. That’s a perfect setting for transmission of the virus, and I worry that if we don’t get to that ‘herd immunity’ and we go back to the way we were doing things, we’re going to start seeing spikes again.”

The current vaccines are effective against the UK and California variants, but the next threat might be forming 7,600 miles away in India, where transmission is rampant.

“It’s just tragic what’s happening in India right now,” Stenehjem says. “That is also a breeding ground for variants. You know when you have that much viral transmission, those are just so many opportunities for that virus to develop that mutation could be you know, deleterious in the fact that it causes more severe disease, leads to increased transmission, affects our testing, or is able to escape from the protection that our vaccines provide us.”

Stenehjem is glad the pause is lifted on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because he says the benefits outweigh the small risk of blood clots. He says those are about one in a million, and the risk of being struck by lightning is twice that, about one in 500,000.     

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