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COVID-19 Update, September 14, 2021

Sep 15, 2021

Click here for Spanish translation recording.

Transcript of Dr. Good's COVID-19 Update, September 14, 2021

Hello. I'm Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health, presenting the COVID-19 update for September 14, 2021. We show a chart here. We've said before this is the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and that's really the case that's the situation that's evolving here in the state of Utah. This chart shows the number of new COVID-19 cases, population adjusted, but differentiating vaccination status. You can see unvaccinated individuals now with over 80 cases per hundred thousand of population in contrast to among vaccinated individuals which is at 10. More importantly, you can see, although we had talked previously about this slow upward drift, this chart now clearly has a downward trend. We're seeing fewer cases on a population adjusted basis among the vaccinated while the unvaccinated continued to experience more and more cases of coronavirus infection and COVID-19 disease. Keep this chart in mind when we look at the hospitalization charts in just a minute.

But before we do that, we've been back at campus now, our fall semester in person, and we resume reporting some of the situation here on the University of Utah campus related to coronavirus. I'm again so impressed with our students and our faculty. Once again, we have an extremely low rate of coronavirus on our campus because people are doing the right things. 83 percent of our university employees have been vaccinated, one of the highest percentages that I've seen around in the various reports. Now, if you count both those that are fully vaccinated and those that are partially vaccinated, meaning they've received their first, but not yet their second shot, we're over 75 to 76 percent of our student body on their way to being either fully vaccinated or on their way to being so. Again, some of the remaining 23 percent, as we implement our vaccine requirement, some of these are students who just as of yet haven't uploaded their vaccine documentation.

So high rates of vaccination on the University of Utah campus. What that means is we are seeing very few cases of coronavirus infection, COVID-19 disease on our campus. Currently our seven-day average of reported cases is running at nine. On this chart, we've shown last year during the early waves of this pandemic, we ran in the 30s and as high as 40 cases reported on a seven-day running average. So substantially less than where we've been even than the prior year. Similarly right now, we only have six students in isolation. Three of those live off campus, three on. Again, six students out of our 34,000 students who call the University of Utah their university, their home. Again, for comparison in prior portions of this pandemic, we were essentially with 30 students in isolation.

Remember, isolation is where you have a coronavirus infection and you're isolated from other individuals so you don't spread that disease to others. We have just five students in quarantine. Quarantine is where you've been exposed and you're trying to determine if you're going to develop coronavirus infection or not. We have just five students. During the peak of 2020, that was as high as 55. So as you can see by all of the different metrics that we look at, very, very little coronavirus on the University of Utah campus, and I believe that's in large part by the tremendous vaccination response that we've seen on our campus.

So now again, looking at what's going on nationally and more broadly in our state, we have seen finally a peak to this growth in the more recent wave of this pandemic. Again, this is at the national level. So for the last few days, we've seen fewer cases from coronavirus than the prior day. So this seven-day average has a decreasing trend now with a leveling off, or perhaps maybe a slight decline in the number of deaths nationally from coronavirus. Still a lot of day-to-day variation, so trends that we'll want to keep an eye on.

Our growth in cases in Utah has not been as steep as nationally, at the moment. Our upward trend continues, again, but not at that steep level that we had seen nationally. So unfortunately in Utah right now, we continue to get more and more cases each day. Our death rate it’s probably fair to say, is level. We haven't seen, since this inflection point back about a month, a month and a half ago, again, some day-to-day variation, but probably best to call it level right now. As with the national trends, we'll want to keep an eye on these statewide trends.

The unfortunate part of the situation for Utah right now is an exceptionally high level of hospitalization. Those that get COVID-19 from Delta variant, it is an overall, more severe disease, and so unvaccinated individuals predominantly getting COVID-19, ending up in the hospital. As you can see, none of the other charts began to approach the levels that we saw back here in the November, December timeframe at what many thought was the tall peak in this pandemic. Our hospitalization rates now are back to very close to this high 500 rate that we saw back here in late November, early December. So to repeat a message that needs to be repeated, if we can just get the rest of our population vaccinated, just as we're seeing so, so little coronavirus on the University of Utah campus, we believe we can see the virus recede in our community as well, with better vaccination rates.

Equally worrisome is the proportion of those hospitalized that are in ICUs shown in this red line. Again, we are back to, sorry, my drawings are a little wobbly there, but we're back to ICU levels that are similar to the peak seen in November and December. So many of our health systems, we're having to modulate our surgery schedule and other activities in the hospital so that we can care for coronavirus patients. So again, we need to have fewer cases, fewer hospitalizations, fewer patients in the ICU, and we get there through vaccination.

Good news is I believe we're starting to see some downward trends in our positivity rate. This, in part, is driven by doing more and more tests. The testing capabilities in our state have ramped up. Testing is a way to make sure you don't have a coronavirus and are particularly, if you're not having symptoms, inadvertently spreading that to others. So again, a trend that we'll watch, and as you can see, there is up and down, some have referred to this as a rolling plateau, maybe with a declining trend line. Obviously we'll keep watching this trend as well, but certainly more encouraging than these steep up slopes that we were seeing in June and July.

This chart shows the number of individuals who are one to 14 years of age. Again, it's a seven-day rolling average of one to 14 year olds who test positive for COVID-19. You can see that unlike 2020, where this was a very low level, we have seen quite an inflection and growth in the number of one to 14 year olds who test positive for COVID, now currently about 300 a day when you hear the daily new case report. We are tracking closely the clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccines in younger individuals. We're still many weeks, months away from approval, but clearly this is a group that we hope we can soon vaccinate because there is a fair amount of virus spread in these groups that we did not see in 2020.

Finally, here at University of Utah Hospital, after this tremendous growth in admissions that we've seen, we have seen a couple days, hopefully, with a trend reversal. Over many days with many days of noise, this is our active coronavirus patients. We have about another 10 to 15 what are called recovered COVID, meaning they've recovered. They're not infectious from their coronavirus but they're still in the hospital suffering often the complications from having a severe case of COVID. But nonetheless, although there is up and down, we do have a downward trend in our census here at University of Utah Hospital, again, with the vast minority of patients shown by the green bars at the top being vaccinated, very few breakthrough cases, and the vast majority in our hospital being unvaccinated.

So again, I think the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Utah for doing the things that they're doing that are keeping the virus and virus spread exceptionally low on our campus. I would make a shout out to those who are not vaccinated, it's not too late. Please contribute to our ability to beat this pandemic by getting vaccinated.

Finally, take a look at this video. It's on your social media. It's, as they say, it's gone viral. This is Teva Martinson, who is a phlebotomist at University of Utah Health, and shared this spontaneous and beautiful moment in our university hospital. Our care teams are persevering under a tremendous stress of this pandemic and it's moments like these expressions of art, music, dance qualities that make us uniquely human, that bring us together to share joy and unity and strength of being part of our teams.

So we thank Teva. We thank all our nurses and respiratory therapists, doctors, all members of the healthcare team for the great work they're doing. Most of the patients who come into the University Hospital and other hospitals with COVID-19, often severe COVID-19, do go home and do return to their families, and we're grateful for the great health professionals that make that happen. We'll continue to monitor the coronavirus situation here at the University of Utah in the state of Utah and throughout the nation, and we'll be back in two weeks with another update. Please stay safe.


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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