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COVID-19 Weekly Update, February 9, 2021


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Transcript of Dr. Good's COVID-19 Weekly Update, February 9, 2021

Hello. I'm Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health, presenting the COVID-19 update for February 9, 2021. We continue to see positive trends, several weeks now. At the national level, the number of new coronavirus cases each day continues to decline, now under 100,000 cases each day. Still a big number, but a great trend with the decline. And I think we're beginning to see a decline in deaths from coronavirus at the national level. Remember, we first detect positive cases through testing. And then we see a two or three-week lag between changes in cases resulting in hospitalization. And then another two to three-week lag for the trend in deaths to change. But, it appears that the deaths are coming down in several weeks now of declining cases.

Same is true, even more pronounced here in the State of Utah, with a declining number of cases, several days under or near 1,000. And perhaps a suggestion that our death rate is similarly coming down in the data we get from the Utah Department of Health. Then there's some timing differences between the state data and the national data, but both of these trends, both of these charts, appear to show declining deaths from coronavirus here in the State of Utah.

Really pleased to see a reproductive number now sustained below one for several weeks now. All this area, under the curve. This means that virus transmission is slowing. The upper chart is a blowup of that curve, and all of this area below one, it doesn't seem like a lot, but small decreases in the reproductive number below one means that each person who gets the virus spreads it or shares it with less than one other person. And so as long as we keep that RT below one, the spread of the virus will continue to decline.

I really appreciate the help of Drs. Zhang and Samore, who track many of the epidemiologic and bio-statistical measures associated with the virus. So if the RT is staying below one, the virus is slowing. That means fewer and fewer people are becoming infected. And so in our active cases, we go from last week, one in 85, this week down to one in 105, and you can see this pretty dramatic decline in the number of active infections. Here we were quite a bit over 60,000 active infections at one point in our state, and now we're closing in on a half of that amount, just over 30,000. Again, a much better trend. There is some leveling off in the active cases at the United States level, but very pleased to see slowing virus transmission here in the State of Utah.

This graph shows the positive tests. The bars, gray bars, are PCR tests. Yellow bars are antigen tests. All of the positive tests by either method are declining. And so, as I mentioned before, hospitalizations have declined significantly. On a seven-day average, you were getting close to 600, now down in the 300s. ICUs, patients with COVID in the ICU, which had been up over 200, and now below 150, closing in on 100, and continued decline in the patients admitted to a hospital in our state with COVID-19.

Continued decline, continued good trends with this virus in our state. Same is true here at University Hospital. Blue line is our 14-day cumulative COVID admissions. We're now hovering in this five, six, seven range. We had a day here a few days ago where we had only two COVID admissions. That means we have a decreasing census in our hospital, now just a little bit over, somewhere around 25, active COVID patients, and around 10 or so patients who have recovered, or they're no longer infectious from their COVID, but they are still in the hospital. Some of them, unfortunately, severely ill with complications still lingering from that COVID infection.

So, positive trends with fewer people in the hospital throughout the state, and a similar positive trend with fewer COVID patients being admitted to and in University Hospital. We carefully are monitoring the campus, our university community, as we continue with the spring semester. Remember, last semester, the number of daily infections reported among our 62,000 University of Utah community members, hovered in the 20 to 30 range. We've been hovering in the teens. This is a seven-day rolling average, some days single digits, for example, on the February 9th report, only seven reported cases of coronavirus on our campus.

The vaccination program in our state continues with ever-increasing numbers of vaccines being delivered on any day. This report, we're just shy of a half million doses. Now, many of those are first doses. Most of those are first doses, but some of those are second. So I think we're somewhere between 350,000 and 375,000 Utahns who have received at least one dose. So this total includes first and second doses, but the state is really doing a rapid job of getting the vaccine out and distributed widely in the state.

I am pleased that the state is working to coordinate distribution of the vaccine through health systems, such as the University of Utah Health. And we think come March, we will be able to provide vaccine to those who receive care in our University of Utah Health System. Again, it will be by priority groups. This activity is being well-coordinated by the Utah Department of Health, but we are pleased to be working with the state, as are the other healthcare systems, to get vaccine to as many people as we can, as quickly as possible.

Just as one measure of how well our state is doing, in our State Department of Health, this shows the efficiency of vaccine distribution across the country. And I'm pleased to report that Utah here is number seven in the country with 80 percent of the vaccine it receives being distributed in a week or less. And we actually continue to move up this list, but I just wanted listeners to know, people are working hard to get as much vaccine as we can throughout this state, and get it distributed as rapidly as we can.

So, probably one of the better reports I've shared with you during this pandemic. Declining cases, hospitalizations and deaths, increasing numbers of vaccine and vaccine administration, still a lot of work to do. We are a little bit in a race against time, as you've heard from others. The more a virus replicates, the more chance there is for a mutation. Many of those mutations will make the virus weaker, but what we worry about are mutations that make the virus stronger or more resistant to the antibodies our body produces after infection, or after a vaccine immunization.

So, we need to keep vaccinating. But as important, if not more, we need to continue activities perhaps that we're getting tired of but we need to redouble our efforts around masks, hand-washing, physical distancing, and staying away from others when we're ill. If we can keep doing these things while we roll out vaccine, we will hopefully continue to see the progress that we're currently seeing in beating this virus and trying to bring this pandemic toward an end.

I hope you have a great week. We'll be back next week with our next COVID-19 update. Thank you.


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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