Sep 27, 2022 - News

A fall COVID surge could still happen in Utah

New COVID-19 hospitalizations in Utah
Data: Utah Department of Health; Chart: Axios Visuals

Utah's COVID hospitalizations are declining this September — but that doesn't mean we've sidestepped a potential fall surge.

Driving the news: Fewer Utahns are hospitalized with COVID now than in late September of the past two years, state data show.

Why it matters: In previous years, COVID hospitalizations had begun to rise sharply by this time, following a rise in new cases with the onset of fall and the start of school.

  • If hospitalizations stay low, it could mean we aren't in for a big winter surge this year.

Yes, but: Fall and winter COVID surges haven't followed the calendar exactly, which means a spike in cases and hospitalizations could still occur.

  • Last winter's biggest surge came in January with the omicron variant, and delta began circulating in midsummer, driving up cases even before school began in fall 2021.
  • 2020's fall surge began in mid-September, so a big increase in the coming weeks wouldn't be terribly far behind.

By the numbers: Last week Utah saw about 18 COVID hospitalizations per day.

  • That's far below the 31 daily hospitalizations during the same week in 2020, and 59 in 2021.
  • Hospitalizations have been dropping pretty steadily since mid-July.

What they're saying: "We're definitely trending in the right direction … but we're definitely not through the thick of fall," Dr. Angela Dunn, director of the Salt Lake County Health Department said in a statement to Axios. "Last year we had increases through October and into early November."

  • Health officials are urging Utahns to vaccinate and get the new bivalent booster and isolate if they are sick.

Of note: Public test sites have wound down and been replaced by at-home tests, so statewide case counts are not accurate.

  • That means a big rise in hospitalizations could occur with little warning.
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