Summit County one of five in Utah with high coronavirus transmission risk |

Summit County one of five in Utah with high coronavirus transmission risk

15 of the state’s 29 counties are rated as having medium to high transmission risks

Emil Chuang, MD, right, speaks with a patient to confirm her appointment for a Moderna vaccination at the Utah Film Studios on Thursday, April 8, 2021.
Park Record file photo

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Utah and the rest of the country, Summit County is one of five places in the state with a high coronavirus transmission risk.

The county in May was the first to have its designation increased from low to medium as cases reached the double digits nearly every day. As of Friday, 15 of Utah’s 29 counties were rated as having medium to high transmission risks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID database. Salt Lake and Tooele counties were in the top risk category with Summit County on Thursday with Grand and San Juan counties also receiving a high designation on Friday.

There were 250 confirmed COVID cases in the county between May 16 and May 31, according to the Summit County Health Department’s COVID dashboard. The data also shows 116 additional cases – 103 of which were reported in the unvaccinated population – between June 1 and June 7.

Phil Bondurant, the county’s health director, speculated the higher number of unvaccinated cases may be because those who are sick are likely experiencing severe symptoms, which leads to more COVID tests being administered.

He said individuals who are vaccinated often report mild, allergy-like symptoms that some people don’t associate with the virus. In certain cases, an individual may choose to self-isolate or take other precautions, but those who don’t suspect they’re sick may continue the cycle of spread and contribute to the uptick, Bondurant said.

Cases have been increasing on the West Coast over the last few months and he compared it to the rise in cases the East Coast experienced in late April. However, Bondurant said, the case numbers locally may be skewed because at-home testing kits can be inaccurate and it’s hard for health officials to gauge who is using them. Summit County is also testing at higher rates than the rest of Utah following the closure of state testing sites at the end of March.

The good news is hospitalization rates, which are considered an important metric in the fight against COVID, appear to be stable and indicate the county’s situation is still manageable, the health director said. There have been nine hospitalizations with one person in the intensive care unit in the last 30 days and one COVID-related death has been reported since March, according to the Health Department.

Approximately 47% of people living in Summit County who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have received a booster shot as of Friday. Close to 88% of residents have completed their vaccination series and 100% have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Bondurant said several factors play a role in why the county hasn’t been able to reach the 50% mark. First, many people may be waiting to receive their booster in the fall when they anticipate they’ll have the highest level of protection against COVID or they consider themselves at a lower risk during the summer. Others may expect they’re going to catch the virus either way and don’t want to go through the inconvenience of the shot, according to the health director.

Bondurant admits he’d like to see the booster number higher and said the Health Department is continuing messaging about the importance of the vaccine, while also recognizing it’s a personal choice.

It’s likely a COVID vaccine similar to a seasonal flu shot, or one combining the two, will be offered sometime soon, he said. Until then, the CDC recommends a second booster for adults over 50 and people 12 and older who are moderately immunocompromised.

“Everybody is aware and everyone knows what COVID is and how to protect yourself, the risks, those different things,” Bondurant said. “People know where [the booster and vaccine is] available so at this point we continue to take those appointments and help people make the decision that’s best for them and their families.”

With summer here and tourists likely on their way, Summit County health officials urge Parkites and visitors to follow precautions to limit their exposure to COVID. Individuals who are unsure if they have contracted the virus are also encouraged to get tested. Testing is available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays in Coalville and Tuesdays in Kamas as well as 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays in Park City.

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