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COVID-19 Update, February 1, 2022


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Transcript of Dr. Good's COVID-19 Update, February 1, 2022

Hello. This is Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health, presenting the COVID-19 update for February 1, 2022.

As we had hoped for last week and began to see some declining trends in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, this week we have seen a continued decline in those important measures related to the pandemic. So nationally, I'm sure you've been following, there are fewer and fewer new coronavirus cases each day in our nation. And we've talked many times before about the time lags between changes in cases, hospitalizations and then even later, deaths, so the trend is still, it's either increasing, or maybe, here at the very end on the far right, potentially a little bit of a leveling off. Obviously, several thousand, 2,300 Americans are still dying each day from coronavirus, so a huge health issue, but hopefully this will level off as well with the declining case counts.

This is an interesting chart that we borrowed from The New York Times which looks at the case rates plotted over time for different parts of the country. And as we've shared in prior weeks, the waves hit different parts of the country at different times. So here you can see the peak of the case counts in the Northeast followed by really then the West. If you look the peak here in our chart for the West and then the light blue, which is the South, and then finally the green, which is the Midwest. It appears Omicron has peaked in each of those areas, still at high levels, and interestingly to watch the rate of decline. You can see in the Northeast, the decline, like the incline earlier, has been pretty steep. We are declining here in the West, but the decline is at a much slower rate. And then the Midwest and the South, somewhere in between those two. But fortunately, declining spread of the virus. It is still spreading, there are still individuals getting new infections, but each day there's fewer than the day prior.

Interestingly, Alaska has an interesting chart. We'll continue to follow that. Hard to know whether that's related to population or other influences, but the thing we're most pleased about, obviously, is to see the decline in the West and also throughout the nation.

Here's our Utah chart. So the top chart is new cases per day. As you can see, the graph now has clearly peaked and similarly is on a very steep decline. The seven-day average is closing in on 5,000 as marked. Today, I note just under 3,600 new cases of coronavirus in our state. Like the national chart, it's hard to see the number of deaths had come up, maybe has plateaued here. We've not had good data the last couple days so I'm not going to put any inferences into that, the last few data points on the far right of that chart, until we get a few more data points in the coming week. But, hopefully, as the case counts come down, we'll see the number of deaths from coronavirus also level off and then decline.

Very pleased to see the number of active infections chart finally peak. You can see that there's clearly an inflection point here sometime in the last week or so. Just to show you how rapid the Omicron spread was, at that peak one in 20 Utahns had an active coronavirus infection. Now, there how long someone is considered infectious and whether that's being accurately calculated are topics of discussion, but nonetheless seeing the number of active infections peak and turn around and start to come down is a welcome sign in this pandemic.

And finally, even our positivity measures appear to have peaked and are beginning to decline. Remember, we measure positivity rate both looking at the individual level, the so-called people-over-people method, and then also at test by test, so-called test-over-test method. Both of these, the people-over-people, had gotten to where almost just under one out of every other person were testing positive and when you looked at all the tests, one out of three tests. But after this period of continuing increase, those percentages of positivity are starting to come down.

I know many people talk about, "Well, not everybody who's been needing or wanting to get tested has been able to get the test they need," that has not been the case at University of Utah Health. We've maintained more than adequate testing capabilities first and foremost for our patients, but also for our faculty, students, staff, and their families. So we have seen, similarly, the positivity rate starting to come down, both in our symptomatic patients and in our asymptomatic screening that we provide on campus.

So with symptomatic patients, so these are individuals exhibiting typically flu-like symptoms, we've had fewer and fewer lab tests ordered. You can see, just like the new case count, this “wave” as we call it, the virus spreading through our community, and then as fewer and fewer people become susceptible either by vaccination or by having had an episode of Omicron infection, fewer and fewer tests being performed. And then in this middle panel, if you look at the size of the blue bar, which represents positive tests, you can see that fewer tests are being ordered and fewer and fewer positive findings are being reported in those tests. This is also another way of looking at this day by day, and although there is day to day variation you can see that the overall trend is indeed heading down.

Hospitalizations. The blue line is a 14-day summation of COVID patients being admitted to Utah hospitals. This is at the state level. You can see at this point we had gotten up to where on this particular day, the 25th of January, 200 Utahns were admitted that day for coronavirus, for COVID-19. And you can see we've now got about six or seven days running where each day we have fewer and fewer admissions to the hospital, now beginning to approach the 150, the mid-100 range. So again, we hope we can continue this trend and quickly get back to a point in this pandemic when fewer and fewer people need admissions to the hospital.

The same has happened here at the University of Utah Hospital. You can see almost this same tracing where we had gotten up to a couple days here, where we had this one day approaching 30 patients admitted with a coronavirus infection, many days in the 20s, but now working our way through the teens and beginning to approach 10 or so patients a day being admitted. Still a lot of patients to care for. I really am proud of our care teams and the exceptional work they're doing caring for everyone who needs to be cared for in the hospital with COVID or a coronavirus infection. So these are the admission numbers on the right, is the census, the number of patients in the hospital at University Hospital at any one time. You can see right around the 25th there we peaked and now we're starting to see, as more people go home and fewer people are admitted, we're beginning to see these numbers come down.

We've stayed pretty stable for several weeks now on the number of patients in the intensive care unit that does go up and down a little bit. But you can see in this Omicron wave, the vast majority of patients were on the hospital ward, not in the ICU. You'll recall at other portions of this pandemic we had as many patients in the ICU as we had on the hospital ward. So again, nice to see both in hospitals across Utah, but also here at University Hospital beginning to see a bit of an easing on the number of patients needing admissions and the number of patients in our hospital with coronavirus.

Similarly, good news on the University of Utah campus, we had at one point gotten up over 150, at one point approaching 200 new coronavirus cases amongst our 62,000 faculty, students, staff, and employees that has come down now. The seven-day average running 50. And a report here, I believe this was yesterday, of just 28. So again, coming down to levels that are very manageable on our campus.

Finally, I'm pleased to report our workforce, many whom were also having coronavirus infections and some having COVID, the disease complex from that infection, as was reported in the news and elsewhere, we got up to a point where we had 500 to 600 of our employees out with a coronavirus infection or a positive test that required them to isolate. And like most of the charts we've looked at today, this chart is a combination of actuals but also a forecast from our modeling group, but we are seeing our employees return to work. That's allowing us to provide more and more needed care, both to those with COVID, but also to the many patients who need cardiac care, neuro care, cancer care, just so many healthcare needs in addition to COVID. As our workforce returns, we're better able to provide that care.

Our concluding slide remains the same. These are the things you can do to continue to help us as a community see this virus slow down and hopefully either get to very low and manageable levels, or perhaps even better, continue to encourage those who might not be vaccinated to do so. Those who are eligible, please get booster shots, continue to wear masks, high quality masks if you can obtain them. Tests, particularly when you're ill, but also tests if you're in large groups, or if you've been in an encounter where you worry about that you may have acquired the virus from someone else. Distance when you can and continue to wash and disinfect services and so on. Just general good public health measures this time of year. It will not only help prevent you from getting coronavirus but these things are also very effective in helping with the various viruses that cause seasonal flu.

So an upbeat, a little bit more optimistic report than we've had in prior weeks, but this is no time to take our guard down or to stop the practices that you see on the screen here. If we can stay focused on these approaches, I'm optimistic that this virus will continue to decline, we'll continue to slow the spread and have the ability to do some of the things we hope to get back to sooner rather than later. But for now, please stay focused on these practices and we'll be back next week with an update, our next COVID-19 update, in a week from now. Be well. Stay safe. 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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