SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah's prisons reported two more inmates who have died after testing positive COVID-19 on Friday as the state's hospitals reach a breaking point with rising hospitalizations ahead of Thanksgiving weekend.
Six inmates have died throughout the pandemic, and there are 780 active cases in the Utah prison system, said Jim Hudspeth, deputy director of the Department of Corrections. In Utah, 1 in 141 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past week, and the state is ranked ninth in the country for new cases per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that there are only 45 open ICU beds throughout the entire state. There were 533 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Utah Friday, and referral center ICU beds reached 93.8% occupancy statewide, according to state data.
The increased number of hospitalizations has prompted doctors and public health officials to advise against attending large Thanksgiving gatherings.
Herbert, a Republican, said he would not extend his previous order that required people to limit social gatherings to people in their immediate household but urged caution. He recommended masks, social distancing and smaller gatherings for the holiday.
The state broke another single-day record Friday with 4,588 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which brought the seven-day average of new daily cases to 3,331. In the past week, 23.6% of people tested have received a positive result, according to state data.
State health officials have said that such a high positivity rate indicates the number of infections is far higher.
There have been over 170,000 reported virus cases in Utah and 773 known deaths related to the virus, according to state data.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.