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COVID-19 Weekly Update, March 30, 2021

Mar 31, 2021

Click here for Spanish translation recording.

Transcript of Dr. Good's COVID-19 Weekly Update, March 30, 2021

Hello. My name is Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health, presenting the COVID-19 update for March 30, 2021. Today is National Doctor's Day. And so, in the middle of this pandemic, we thank our physicians and all our providers for the great work that they have done and continue to do as our city, our state, and our nation, and indeed our world, battle this pandemic. Happy Doctor's Day to all the physicians in the audience.

Trends have changed a little bit since our update last week. After a period of declining new cases in our country, things had started to level off. And now, in fact, we're starting to see an increase, an increase in the number of new coronavirus cases in our nation. And we've all been following the national news and the thoughts behind this, but clearly we don't want to see things reverse course after having really brought the level of this virus down to manageable levels. It's unfortunate to see this increase at the national level. Similarly, after substantial declines in daily deaths from coronavirus, this trend has now leveled off for the last a week or so.

In Utah, the decline, we saw similarly, this nice decline, probably still with a little bit of decline going we haven't seen certainly, leveling off. It's not declining as fast, but we haven't seen a tail or an increase in the number of new coronavirus cases in our state. So continued declines and new cases, and also, again, a lot of reporting technicalities with the deaths, but overall, whether you look at our state data or the national data, deaths from coronavirus continued to decline in the state of Utah and actually, by both measures, are well below ten. Some measures report on the day the death is determined to have been from coronavirus and other methodologies map the date of death back to when the death actually occurred. So that's some of the reason for the differences, but nonetheless, we continue to see declines here in the state of Utah.

A similar trend with our number of active infections. After a substantial drop over the past couple of months, this trend is also leveling off at about the same level this week, as it was last week, about one in 333 Utahns with a current active infection from coronavirus. So with that stabilizing, if you will, and not seeing the declines that we had seen before, it is no surprise that our reproductive number, so-called RT, has returned to one after quite a period here, all through here where RT was below one, meaning slower and slower transmission of the virus,  it's been inching up. And once again, hits one. So we're going to have to watch this closely. If RT gets above one, we would expect to see increases in the number of new cases and we'd expect to see an inflection and a hook on the number of new cases plotted on the seven-day moving average.

Fortunately, although probably related to these, remember that when cases go up, about two to three weeks later, we see changes in hospitalizations. And two to three weeks after that, we see changes in the number of deaths. So fortunately, so far, the number of Utahns in a hospital in Utah with COVID-19 continues to decline. The number in ICUs continues to decline. And the number shown in the blue line-- being admitted each day, also declining. So all of our measures of hospitalization, ICU, and daily admissions are declining. Also, shown here on the bars are the number of new positive cases each day. And you can see that they are down, the references over here, down in the low hundreds, somewhere between several hundred up to some days around 500 or so, but a continued decline in the number of new positive cases of coronavirus reported in our state.

Coronavirus remains very limited on the University of Utah campus. You can see here, again as before, just a few people each day reporting a new coronavirus infection. Vast majority of them, either asymptomatically or very mildly symptomatic. So low levels of virus and virus transmission continue on the University of Utah campus.

After a period of substantial decline in admissions for COVID-19 to our University of Utah Hospital, we did see over the last few days, this increase. We had ten patients admitted yesterday, one of the highest daily admissions in quite a while. So at the state level, we saw either continuing declines or leveling off. Here at the University of Utah, we do have a hook, a tail, if you will, on the admission curve. We got down to just eight or so patients in our hospital, and that's rebounded up a little bit toward fifteen now. Certainly within the span of what we can comfortably care for here at the University of Utah, obviously much better than the eighties and nineties that we saw earlier in this year and particularly around the turn of the calendar year, but something that we're going to want to keep an eye on. And hopefully we can continue to see this virus decline as our vaccination program continues and we continue public health measures that reduce transmission.

The state vaccination program remains strong, averaging over 20,000 vaccines being administered each day by county health departments, the Utah Department of Health, and health partners, including the University of Utah Health. So here you can see the statistics about how many vaccines the state have received and administered, and how many citizens are fully vaccinated.

We've talked a lot on this program about the pandemic, the coronavirus infection, but we also, in some ways, have a second parallel a pandemic and that's the toll, the tax, on mental health on all of us as we battle this now for more than a year. And so here at the University of Utah Health, we've been working with our teams. We're very fortunate to have both the Resiliency Center and members of our faculty who make their work, the focus of their work, the resiliency of our healthcare teams. And so our Resiliency Center is sharing a number of resources, how we keep going, links to resources about well-being and particularly mental health well-being. We still have months to go in, what will hopefully be the final months of this pandemic, but we're not done yet. And resiliency, the ability to keep going forward, is important and there are techniques and approaches that can make it easier and make it smoother for us to do so. So I encourage you to look at these resources, contact our Resiliency Center. Together is how we are getting through this pandemic and part of that togetherness is keeping one another strong, helping to support one another.

As I mentioned last week, and as you see by the report this week, we're at an interesting point where we would like the declines to continue and not see a so-called hockey puck or a hockey stick return to upward trajectory in our curves, which have been going down for many months now. And so that's why the public health measures continue to be important. And even as the state transitions out of its mask mandate, we will ask for continued face coverings, certainly in our health system, for the reasons cited on this chart, particularly the vulnerable members of our community who received care here, but also we really want to keep the virus transmission low. Face coverings will continue to be required at the University of Utah. More broadly, we are going to have, the commencement will be virtual, but colleges and schools will be having in-person convocations to celebrate the student graduates from their colleges and schools. The attendance will be limited and the venues will all be outdoors.

But as we move forward, these types of public health practices, obviously continuing to stress the importance of vaccination and registering for a vaccination just as soon as you can. All adults in the state of Utah are now eligible for a vaccine, actually including those 16 and older. So all adults should be working to get their vaccination. In the meantime, we continue to recommend face coverings, aggressive hand-washing and other surface sanitations as we have been for the last year, keeping physical distance wherever possible, and if we are ill, staying away from others.

We are making progress. We've come a long way. The pandemic is at a manageable level, but we'd like to see that drop even further here in our state. It's not manageable in all states in the country right now and we really want to keep moving forward on these public health measures, on the vaccination program, so we don't see infections through travel and other means come into our state and reverse the tremendous accomplishments and the tremendous strides we've made at reducing the pandemic in our state.

So we're going to watch things closely. We'll plan to be back in two weeks with another COVID-19 update. In the meantime, we ask you to please stay positive, but test negative.


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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