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Under new rules, additional big counties may be considered 'high' transmission areas by Thursday

Posted at 6:27 PM, Oct 20, 2020

In what seems like a never-ending morbid race, Salt Lake County has not yet retaken the title of hottest COVID-19 hot spot in Utah.

Utah County maintains the title, though it has grown close.

Check out the list of Utah’s biggest six counties: Utah County's high rate is an improvement from last week. Salt Lake and Washington counties had their highest case numbers yet.

Along with Salt Lake and Utah counties, 10 others (all in red on this map) also saw their highest numbers. Box Elder, Carbon, Emery, Grand, Juab, Sanpete, Sevier, and Tooele set new one-week records. Morgan and Wasatch counties tied their previous records.

Following the new guidelines, we crunched the available numbers to show where every county stands today in terms of the new transmission index. Counties have to surpass two of three criteria in order to be considered high or moderate transmission. Once a county is classified as high or moderate, it can’t move to a lower level until it maintains declining numbers for two weeks running.

Click here to see the consequences of each level.

On this map, we look at the 14-day rate of new cases per 100,000. Counties in red are above the threshold for the high transmission. Yellow are moderate.

On this map, we reach the limit of currently published information. Testing positive percentages are generally available statewide, and many counties provide percentages spanning the pandemic. The counties with numbers on this map provide specific information. Weber and Washington counties are in health districts that provide information spanning other areas. Because they are each the dominant population centers in their regions, we felt we could confidently say whether they met high or moderate thresholds, but not with numbers specific to the counties individually. The state health department has said they are working on web updates to make more information available.

The last criteria, ICU use overall and by COVID-19 patients, is also not yet easily available from the state. But we can take the number of ICU beds the state has in total and use a 7-day average of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to find the number. This map shows COVID-19 patients are easily meeting one half of the ICU threshold by occupying over 16 percent of available beds. But the high-transmission standard also requires beds to be 70 percent filled overall, and right now we’re hovering right below that at 69.2 percent.

Overall, it looks clear that Salt Lake County will remain in the high transmission category. Washington and Davis may join it. The other counties currently at high risk don’t provide enough testing data for us to judge, but it’s likely that most if not all will continue to meet the criteria. If any have improved enough to slip below one or two thresholds, they’ll have to maintain that for another week to move into the moderate category.