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Local News

Breakthrough COVID Cases Increase in Summit County

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A fully vaccinated Park City family of four contracted Covid this month, bringing the number of “breakthrough” cases in Summit County to 27.

Breakthrough cases are confirmed cases of Covid in people who have been fully vaccinated. The county started recording breakthroughs in early May, and while they’re concerning, they are not surprising, said Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough. He stressed that breakthrough cases don’t mean vaccines aren’t working.

"We are increasingly on alert as we know that certain variants are less impacted by vaccines," Bullough said. "But the numbers really very, very strongly suggest that the vaccines are still very effective. We expected breakthroughs. We still highly recommend the vaccines, it is absolutely the best way to avoid getting COVID."

27,700 Covid vaccines have been administered in Summit County, far more than any other county in Utah per capita. Summit County is seeing breakthrough cases because so many residents are vaccinated, Bullough said. If people weren’t vaccinated, cases would be regular Covid cases – and potentially more serious, since vaccines are proven to lessen severity in those who contract the virus.

Whether or not recent new breakthrough cases are a variant of Covid-19 has yet to be determined. Bullough said health officials globally have evidence that newer variants are significantly more contagious than the first strain.

Marie McClelland is a Parkite and escrow officer for First American Title who shared her family’s story with KPCW as a cautionary tale. Her mom, who’s 78, works for a local property management company. According to McClelland, an unvaccinated coworker of her mother’s got Covid and passed it to her mom, who then passed it to McClelland, her husband, their son and his friend after a birthday dinner together.

McClelland tested positive for Covid June 19th. 

"I was feeling pretty bad. I had high fever, headaches, like there was a vise on my head. I had ice packs on my head to help cope with the pain," she said. "We all have lost our sense of taste and smell. My husband's is coming back a little."

She and her family members all got the Moderna vaccine in April from locations in Heber, Park City and Salt Lake City. Bullough said positive COVID cases are being sequenced to determine if the virus is a variant, but that testing is backed up statewide so results are taking several weeks.

Bullough said the protocol for breakthroughs is the same as unvaccinated cases: quarantine is required, and close contacts will be called and tested as well.

McClelland said she’s grateful her family didn’t get sicker.

"There's nothing more than us wanting to get our lives back to normal," she said. "There's no doubt about it, I was one of those that felt invincible after being vaccinated after a few weeks, going out without a mask and boy, we've been thrown for a loop. And we were all in shock once we realized that we tested positive."

Bullough said Summit County is seeing three to four new Covid cases a day right now, which isn’t a surge, and additional restrictions are not being considered. But he strongly echoed McClelland’s call for caution, distancing and masking when in close proximity to unvaccinated people.