Could Utah experience a fourth wave of COVID-19?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – After several weeks of steady decline in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, once again, they’re starting to tick back up.

As more people contract the virus, local health officials said it’s entirely possible the state could experience another wave of infection, but outbreaks are more likely to happen among the unvaccinated.

Utah doctors said Monday more people are coming in for care, as COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

“We were typically seeing between 12 and 15 patients a day reported, and now we’re creeping up into 20 to 30 a day,” said Dr. Taki May, the medical director of Intermountain Logan Regional Hospital and a clinical hospitalist.

“Just an uptick, just gently, slowly, and then it’s become more brisk [sic] in probably the last week or so – we’re seeing more COVID cases,” said Dr. Marion Bishop, at Cache Valley and Brigham City community hospitals.

Crunching the numbers from the Utah Department of Health, Erin Clouse, the University of Utah Health strategic engagement manager, said COVID-19 data shows the state’s positivity rate is higher than it was at this time last July.

“We’re not masking, big concerts, big get-togethers, no social distancing,” she said. “The difference between now and a year ago is everyone was kind of hunkering down. Now we have a more transmissible variant. Very few people now, when I go out, are practicing these basic masking, distancing, staying home.”

As of Monday, nearly 45% of Utah’s eligible population, are not fully vaccinated, according to UDOH data.

If cases continue to climb, health experts said a fourth wave of the virus is possible, and it would likely target the unvaccinated.

“The virus is hungry, the only way it lives is by attaching to a human being and replicating,” Dr. Bishop said. “There are folks who are still unimmunized, and they are just fair game for this really nasty virus.”

“Unfortunately, there’s an epidemic of unvaccinated people now, because most of the people who’ve already been vaccinated are going to be fairly well protected,” Dr. May said. “Not that you can’t get COVID once you’re vaccinated, but it’s a lot less likely and usually a lot less severe.”

“It’s a wait and see, but right now, with the positivity rate going up so quickly, it’s definitely in the realm of possibility we could see another wave,” Clouse said.

If trends continue like they did last year, Clouse said she’s concerned, as schools welcome students back to the classroom.

“We saw a big uptick after schools opened, this is that step right before that, and we’re actually at a higher positivity rate than we did last year at the same time,” she said.

While the future of the pandemic is not entirely clear, our local experts encourage each of us to do our part and get the shot.

While the vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing COVID-19, Clouse said data shows more vaccinated individuals (breakthrough cases) are also on the rise.

“The vaccine isn’t perfect, and the more people who have COVID out in the public, the more likely it is we’re going to see these breakthrough cases,” she said.

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