Utah County Health Department launches COVID-19 project to serve underprivileged communities 02

Healthcare worker Shelby Smith pulls out a swab after administering a coronavirus test to Bethany Ewell, of Draper, at a COVID-19 testing site outside of Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The state of Utah reported 1,484 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday in what is believed to be a surge following the holidays in 2020.

Along with the announcement of the new case numbers for Monday, four new deaths were announced with two coming from Utah County. The two were a female and male, both ages 45-64.

The Beehive State is now ranked fifth in the nation in terms of cases per 100,000 for the past week, according to the New York Times, and last week also marked the second-biggest increase in COVID-19 cases the state has seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utah County has seen the second-highest total number of COVID-19 cases in the state, only behind Salt Lake County, and officials worry that with local colleges returning to campus this week it could get even worse.

“That would be a concern just based on the sheer numbers, there’s your denominator right there that goes up instantaneously,” said Dr. Todd Vento of Intermountain during a recent press conference. “If you want to talk about the potential for the concept of a super spreader event, you bring 20, 30 or 40,000 people back together who have been traveling, possibly, and now they’re all together again.”

When looking at the case rates broken down by area on the COVID-19 website for the state, Provo and Orem have some of the darkest spots on the map. This means that these areas have some of the highest COVID-19 case rates per 100,000 in the state.

The North Orem area has the worst case rate per 100,000 in the entire state at 17,728.75 per 100,000.

Provo Municipal Council member David Harding looked at the statistics on Friday and calculated that roughly one in every eight people who lives in Provo has been diagnosed with COVID-19 to this point in the pandemic.

“We had been doing better, but our numbers are surging again,” Harding said in a Facebook post. “Wednesday we reported the second-highest daily tally of new cases. Hold on. Be vigilant. Hope is around the corner. Keep yourself and your community safe.”

Along with the rise in COVID-19 cases seen last week, the Utah Department of Health is expanding testing efforts with four new testing locations at Lehi Junior High School, Spanish Fork High School, Vista Heights Middle School and the Lindon Community Center.

All of the four new testing sites will be offering swab rapid antigen tests, a test known to be not as accurate as the traditional PCR testing.

The difference in the two tests was recently outlined in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that the rapid antigen tests were right 80% of the time for those who are symptomatic and only 41.2% for those who were asymptomatic.

According to a release from the Utah Department of Health, the sites with the rapid antigen tests are chosen based on high positivity rates, low numbers of tests taking place, untreated water sampling and other surveillance data.

Those looking to be tested at one of the new sites with the rapid antigen test can register at https://utah.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=ee341bdc8ea443c0828522d983d98e39/.

While cases have been rising, so have the number of vaccine doses being administered. According to the Utah State Health Department website, over 103,000 vaccines have been administered so far in the state.

COVID-19 vaccines will begin to be administered to teachers starting on Wednesday in Utah County while those 70 years or older are eligible to receive the vaccine starting Jan. 18.

In an interview with the Daily Herald on Friday, Utah County Health Department Public Information Officer Aislynn Tolman-Hill said that the county saw 3,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine come in weekly recently.

As vaccination efforts expand with the local county health departments in the driver’s seat, about 6,000 doses will be needed to inoculate educators in Utah County with more being needed for those over 70 years of age.

The Department of Health is currently vaccinating people at its offices in Provo but the plan is to move to a larger venue that would be capable of inoculating more people with the need for distancing. This move is expected in the coming weeks.

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