SALT LAKE CITY — State health officials along with healthcare workers have seen a ‘summer surge’ in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past week but know where most of the new cases are coming from.
“The people who are getting sick, the people who are testing positive, the people who are getting hospitalized, they all have one thing in common and that is the vast majority of them are not vaccinated,” said Tom Hudachko with Utah Department of Health. “Of the 1.4 million people who are fully vaccinated in Utah, we’ve had about 1500 of those individuals test positive for COVID-19 so really it’s about a tenth of a percent, so a minuscule amount of individuals who have been vaccinated go on to test positive for COVID-19 but some do.”
The root of recent cases appears to be coming from individuals who are not vaccinated, who are interacting with other non-vaccinated people, while not wearing masks.
“Remember our history and our history is just from months ago and we should remember that these (masks) work,” said Dr. Todd Vento with Intermountain Healthcare, who has seen the increase in hospitalizations in recent weeks. “We’ve got many people who haven’t gotten the vaccine and many of them are still at risk for having a severe infection; that’s when a lot of us in the hospital do get concerned that we will have a few more hospitalizations in the ICU, some more in the ward.”
Health officials are closely monitoring variants of COVID-19 which have moved into Utah. UDOH says that roughly half the new cases are from variants, while the other half is an original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
“We were concerned based on knowing what happened in other countries and watching those trends on different variants of concern of mutated strains how they spread differently,” said Dr. Vento, who notes the Delta variant is more transmissible than the original virus. “If you don’t have the vaccine and you get this strain, you can spread it more easily to others.”
Both those with Intermountain Healthcare and Utah Department of Health are continuing to recommend that unvaccinated Utahns get their doses to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state. While they recognize they aren’t one-hundred precent effective, UDOH says that the COVID vaccines are more than 95% effective in preventing against severe symptoms from the virus.
“A lot of our data shows us the people who are still most likely wearing masks are vaccinated individuals which is the exact opposite of what we need to be, what we need to be having right now,” said Hudachko. “It’s more convenient that it’s ever been to get vaccinated and most importantly we know that these vaccines are absolutely effective in limiting the transmission of this disease.”