Coronavirus transmission risk in Summit County increased from low to medium |

Coronavirus transmission risk in Summit County increased from low to medium

Local, statewide COVID-19 numbers on the rise

MD Meta Haley, left, administers the Moderna vaccine to a patient at a drive-through location at the Utah Film Studios Friday afternoon, Jan. 22, 2021. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

Novel coronavirus cases have been rising in Summit County and with the increase in cases, the county’s transmission risk was increased from low to medium on May 12 – the only part of the state with the designation as of Thursday morning.

The number of new positive COVID-19 cases has been in the double digits nearly every day for the past month, with more than 100 total confirmed cases in the community. Daily cases had not exceeded 15 since February and remained under 10 until mid-April.

There were 23 cases reported on May 10, which is the most in one day in recent weeks. Of those, 20 were attributed to the unvaccinated population. According to the Summit County Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard, the majority of cases over the past month occured in those who haven’t received a vaccine.

In a prepared statement, Summit County spokesperson Derek Siddoway said the county could not comment on what the local situation means for the rest of Utah. In the past, county officials have characterized the community as the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to the coronavirus.

Gov. Spencer Cox on Thursday said of Utah and the rest of the nation are experiencing a spike in cases. Last week, Summit County was the first county in Utah to be moved up a level by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The county’s change in designation can be attributed to two factors, according to Siddoway.

First, Summit County is testing at higher rates than the rest of the state. The Utah Department of Health closed its testing sites at the end of March as part of Utah’s “steady state” response, but testing remained available locally. Summit County health officials said they would continue offering it through the end of the school year by utilizing a third-party contractor as well as self-testing kiosks in Coalville and Kamas.

Local case counts likely include positive tests among asymptomatic individuals, Siddoway said, who otherwise wouldn’t know they had COVID-19 and are adding to the overall number. The newest coronavirus variant has also been linked to 40% of total coronavirus cases in the United States, an increase from 7% in April, according to an Intermountain Healthcare media release.

Siddoway also attributes the rise in cases to seasonal travel as well as the return of social activities and in-person gatherings.

“We will continue to monitor active case rates in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we support the CDC recommendations for counties at medium risk,” Siddoway said.

CDC guidelines include staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and getting tested if showing symptoms in medium-risk areas. Those who are at elevated risk of severe illness are also encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider about whether they need to wear a mask or take other precautions.

Summit County health officials ended the COVID-19 emergency declaration on March 30 as they transitioned to a more individual-focused approach to the pandemic. The shift came with lingering concerns, but the belief that the general public has wide enough access to tools like vaccines, boosters, monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals — specifically at various health care systems, hospitals and urgent care centers – to fight the virus.

As of Thursday, around 47% of people living in Summit County who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have received a booster shot. The figure is a 1 percentage point increase from April and up from 33% in January, when health officials hoped more people would receive the booster in response to the more contagious omicron variant.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.