CDC data suggests a late summer surge of COVID-19 cases. Are Utahns affected?

Posted at 4:22 PM, Aug 04, 2023

COVID-19 hasn’t said its last goodbyes.

That’s the word from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as their latest data points to a new summer surge. Hospitalizations rose 12.1% during the week of July 22 across the nation. These results come after several months of dips and plateaus in COVID-19 cases.

According to the CDC only 17% of the U.S. population received the most recent bivalent booster which suggests a waning immunity for a broad section of the population.

However, it's still too early to ring the alarm bells. The number of deaths remain at their lowest since the pandemic began. For much of the country and Utah, the data indicates that people should be more vigilant than alarmed.

FOX 13 News spoke to Annie George, epidemiologist at Salt Lake County Health Department to learn about what this summer surge means for Utah.

“ So we have seen a small uptick in cases, but it's not something that I would call a surge at this point,” George said. “... there are sites that look like the east coast and west coast that are seeing an increase in their hospitalized cases.

“That's not something that we have seen here”

George notes that this doesn’t mean that Utahns shouldn’t be aware of the latest situation. In past surges, she says, Utah tends to lag behind the east and west coasts. And health officials are not armed with as much precise data as before as many people now perform home testing and don’t report positive results.

“I think it's important to note that definitely COVID is still circulating. It probably will be for who knows how long. But like I said I wouldn't use the word surge yet.

“But just because we're seeing an uptick right now that hasn't turned into a surge doesn't mean that it won't come here.”

This is now the fourth straight summer that COVID-19 cases have risen.

“People generally travel more in the summer," George said, "and so that can expose populations to different variants that they maybe haven't seen and then they bring that home with them when they come home and then it just starts to spread within the community.”

The good news for Utahns is that most current cases appear to be milder, with symptoms more like the common cold.

Unfortunately, however, free testing is not as widely available today. George says with the ending of the COVID emergency declaration, many free testing sites are now closed. There are some that are free but none are located in Salt Lake County.

“Your options are, to get a home test kit, they're pretty widely available now and for PCR it would be more like going to an Instacare or to your primary care provider," George said.

While people who are immunocompromised or have comorbidities should pay extra attention to the latest data, George notes that everyone can still do their part to help mitigate the spread of this still very virulent virus.

George also advises people to keep a look out for the next round of boosters, which will be available some time during the fall. The new booster is said to target the XBB variant which is a subset of Omicron.

“Keeping in mind that if you do contract COVID, not to go out unless you absolutely have to or if you're seeking care to, to pull the masks back out and make sure that you're wearing a mask or if you are around other people that are not positive or family members that are compromised, George said.

“One of the key things that we want to remind people of is that our best defense at not having a surge is caring about each other, right?”