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COVID-19 Weekly Update, December 9, 2020

Dec 09, 2020

Click here for Spanish translation recording.

Transcript of Dr. Good's COVID-19 Weekly Update, December 9, 2020 

Hello. I'm Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health, presenting the COVID-19 update for December 9, 2020. We're going to see a similar pattern in all of our tracings today and heading through the Thanksgiving holiday. For example, the number of new cases reported at the national level decreased for several days only to be followed now by a return to an increasing trend and reaching levels that we've not seen in this pandemic. This is the number of new cases of coronavirus infection at the national level. We see this same pattern in the number of deaths per coronavirus at the national level. Again, days reaching new levels that we haven't seen in this entire pandemic. The story is similar here in the state of Utah during the Thanksgiving holiday period, in large part because the usual testing patterns, both the availability of tests and the people that were going to get tested, changed, decreased during the holiday.

But now in this post-holiday period the trend lines have turned back up. And in the case of Utah, the seven-day average of new cases not quite back to where we left before the holiday, but certainly with days where we have approaching 4,000 new cases a day. The deaths from coronavirus, which had been increasing, have leveled off a little bit over this period. But remember these lags that we've seen throughout the entire pandemic, where we see changes in the number of new cases. A week or two later, we see changes in hospitalization.

And then a week or two later, we see the changes in mortality from coronavirus. So again, signs that the virus is spreading in our community. We stay right at about one in 50 Utahns or about two percent of our population with an active coronavirus infection. Remember from some of our studies, particularly the Hero Project here at the university of Utah, we know that for every individual who knows they have a coronavirus infection, there's two to three other people who do not know they have a coronavirus infection, even though they are most likely sharing the virus in the environment around them.

So again, we're at and returning to and in some cases exceeding some of the highest levels of coronavirus that we've seen throughout this pandemic. The death rate on a rolling seven-day average, which again, heading into the holidays had actually exceeded heart disease and cancer, which are the leading causes of death in the United States and in Utah, the death rate did get up over those levels. In the last few days it has come down. Remember that period. I should be where the deaths were leveling off. But again, just to put in context how devastating this virus and this pandemic are to the citizens of our state.

As we went into the Thanksgiving holiday, we were pleased and hopeful to see the positive test rate decrease from about 24 percent down to 22 percent, the first time we had seen a decline in quite a while. Similar to our other trends, the positivity rate has increased now to where, in Utah, one out of four individuals at a coronavirus testing center tests positive. Over one in four testing positive. Just another sign of this virus' ability to move from one person to the next in a way that we've not seen in over a century. Same trends here. We see hospitalizations across the state approaching 600 individuals in hospitals across the state with coronavirus, and large numbers of those in ICU beds. Same pattern we see here at University of Utah Health, where heading into the Thanksgiving holiday we had peaked up in the mid-70s and headed down.

We have now returned with, we're getting about somewhere between 12 to 14 patients admitted to University Hospital each day with COVID-19. And you can see now, we actually, several days this week, were in the mid-70s and upper 70s. And looking at what's happening in the hospital today, I suspect we'll cross over to 80 COVID patients in University Hospital here if not tomorrow, in the next day. So again, just this dramatic increase in hospitalization over the last couple of months. And the trend is in the wrong direction. It's increasing, not decreasing. After Thanksgiving, the University of Utah entered or returned to remote learning, and with that return to remote learning our on campus cases have settled back down and leveled off. It's about 20 per day out of our 62,000 member campus community. And the number of students that are in isolation is down to under 10 now, so not very much a virus or a stable level of virus on our campus community.

I attribute that in large part to the rigor with which our faculty, our staff, and our students wear masks any time they're on campus in any setting except if they're alone in an office, as I am now sharing this presentation with you. But as soon as I walk out of the office, as soon as I'm in any public space, the mask goes on. And that rigorous approach to masking, rigorous approach to hand-sanitizing, I think is in large measure why we've had a very successful semester here at the University of Utah with very low levels of coronavirus. We've spent many of our meetings over the last couple of weeks planning for the distribution of coronavirus vaccine. I refer you to the website. There's a lot of information there.

Also our university website. We're increasingly putting information about the distribution of vaccine on that website. We do anticipate receiving our initial shipments of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine next week. Assuming the approvals that are anticipated at the federal level are approved, we should receive our initial shipments next week. The initial shipments will go to the five hospitals in the state that have treated the most number of coronavirus patients and University of Utah Hospital is one of those sites. Following guidelines that have been recommended first by the CDC and its immunization committees through our Utah State Department of Health. And then we have a vaccine committee here at University of Utah Health that is working on our distribution priorities and methodology. The first focus will be on our healthcare workers, and here at University of Utah Health, it will be on those healthcare workers that are taking care of our coronavirus patients.

We will then first immunize those that are taking care of coronavirus patients, and then move to the rest of our healthcare workforce. You can see by these evolving strategies, both shown here from the state and similar ones being developed here at University of Utah Health. We then move to other healthcare professionals and to EMS first responders, public health workers in this initial wave. In a second wave of vaccination anticipated in February through March, we'll focus principally on long-term care facilities, both residents as well as staff, and other essential workers will be in the second wave. And then March through July, a third wave of vaccination following these prioritization protocols. An important group here are those over the age of 65. As we've seen throughout this pandemic, those in the higher decades of life are more adversely impacted than those at the lower decades of life.

Also, teachers, childcare personnel, and others, as you can see. With a hope of by late spring, early summer, if supplies are sufficient, if we can keep up with the logistics, that we would have all Utahns vaccinated by early summer. The Pfizer vaccine is the one we anticipate receiving here at University of Utah. It is a two-dose vaccine, and so our teams are working on the logistics to get not one but actually two injections administered at the appropriate spacing as we roll out a vaccination. I want to remind everybody and just reiterate that, although we hope to be vaccinating by the end of next week, we cannot let our guard down. As I've just explained, it's going to take many, many months to get everyone vaccinated, and so what we cannot have is someone saying, "The vaccine is coming, I don't need to wear a mask."

We have to wear masks. We have to continue hand-sanitizing, social distancing, really not gathering in groups until we can get the widespread immunization of our community. I share with you today as we close, actually a report just released by the Marriner Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis in the David Eccles School of Business here at the University of Utah. And as you can see, wearing masks does two important things. It saves lives and it enhances economic activity. Wherever we are on this continuum, this balancing act that we need to do between slowing down the virus but keeping our economy moving-- no matter where we are on this continuum, if we wear masks we achieve more of both. We achieve more economic activity and we achieve better health outcomes. So the website is here as shown on the bottom of this slide.

And I encourage you to read that. And more importantly, be a role model for your family. Be a role model for your neighborhood. Be a role model for your workplace, and make sure you've got a mask on anytime you're in a public space, anytime you're near others. The light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to appear but it is still six to eight months away. Please do the things we need to do so we can get around the end of this pandemic and get back to many of the things that we enjoy doing together with one another. Thank you for all you're doing. Please continue to stay safe, and we'll see you next week with our next update.


Michael Good, MD

Michael Good is CEO of University of Utah Health, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and A. Lorris Betz Senior Vice President for Health Sciences. A professor of anesthesiology, Good joined U of U Health after more than three decades of teaching, innovation, and leadership at the University of Florida, where he served as dean of the College of Medicine for 10 years.

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