Holiday COVID-19 case counts are predicted to spike upward. Officials plan to increase testing, and with that, they’re expecting higher positivity rates. Utah is ninth in the country for positive test counts per 100,000 people.
Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Disease expert Dr. Todd Vento reported the seven-day average COVID-19 case count is approximately 2700. This represents a 29% positivity rate. He said details are limited due to the holiday period, and he expects to see larger increases in case counts in the coming weeks.
Just like we see after long weekends in the past with the pandemic, I’d wait to see what the seven day and 14 day rolling averages show over the next week or two 'cause you'll see quite the variation in numbers of tests and numbers of cases based on the pattern of behavior for testing. Reminder, that's very high. I know that we've seen higher percent positivity in other states where we had a surge within a surge during the fall time-period, but 30% range is still pretty high.”
Community transmission is high now, and they expect to see a surge in hospitalizations by the end of January.
“Our current numbers were hovering in 480 range from the state recording and our ICU capacity was 82 to 83%. We haven't really seen the effects of what's happened for Christmas holiday, New Year's holiday. At this time, we would expect to see that in the next few weeks. So, we will be keeping a close eye on that. There after we look for hospital trends and then unfortunately deaths thereafter. So mid to late January is what we'll be looking at for those important trends to see what happened in the Holidays.”
A higher transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus has now been reported in 33 countries including the U.S. Vento said the U.S. cases have proven to be caused by community spread, and not by people who traveled to other countries.
“We expected that, and we expect that there will be more. The Centers for Disease control has actually increased the number of genome sequencing tests that they are doing throughout the country and having the local health departments in each state send them those results, as well, so they could see if the viral strain is actually elsewhere and how widespread it is in the country.”
He said the mutation is no more virulent now, but it will result in more cases, more hospitalizations, and more deaths because it transmits more illness.
"The more we have transmission communities, the higher the percent positivity, the more we have upward trends in cases and hospitalizations, the more likely it is that the virus will start to evade measures by trying to mutate, to then continue to survive. So, that's certainly a concern which gets us back to wanting to actually have individuals even more disciplined about using mitigation measures.”
The highest number of COVID-19 cases, since the beginning of the pandemic, were reported December 31. Dr. Vento said it is an indicator that it is not time to lighten up on mask wearing, social distancing and practicing good hygiene.