COVID-19 Update, August 31, 2021
By: Michael Good, MD | Sep 1, 2021 10:00 AM
Transcript of Dr. Good's COVID-19 Update, August 31, 2021
Hello, I'm Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health presenting the COVID-19 update for August 31, 2021. And unfortunately, our report today sees predominantly increasing trends in the different measures that we follow related to the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, as you can see, we've continued to have increasing numbers of new cases each day. The rate of rise slowing down a little bit here in the last few days, but clearly an upward trend and starting to get back into the areas, the ranges of some of the peaks that we saw in late calendar 2020 and early calendar 2021.
Similarly, the death rate has been climbing at the national level, perhaps leveling off just a bit or a slower rate of rise, but continuing spread of the coronavirus throughout our country and the same true here in the State of Utah, we see this continuing increase where each day we have more and more new cases of coronavirus reported. And similarly now, after a long period of time where the death rate had not been increasing, we now see an increasing death rate where on many days having five, six or seven deaths reported from coronavirus.
So trends are not moving in the correct direction. If we have more cases, we have more active infections. So now we're back up to we're about one in a 100, approximately 140 Utahns, one out of 140 Utahns have an active case of coronavirus infection. They may not feel symptomatic, they may not know it, but they are testing positive, meaning they're harboring the virus. This is increased quite a bit from levels that we had gotten to during the periods of the pandemic where the number of infected individuals had been quite a bit lower, one out of 600. So that means right now, we have about 23,000 Utahns with a positive coronavirus infection.
All of these statistics point to that the virus real-time reproductive number is greater than one. And we've now unfortunately have had quite a period of time where the-- remember this second year of the pandemic is this darker color red-- and you can see for the whole area I've marked the reproductive number has been greater than one. That means each person who has coronavirus spreads it to more than one other individual. Overlaid on the orange line, which is the reproductive number from last year at this time, and you can see this was a period of time last year when the virus was actually receding where each individual was spreading it to fewer than one other individual.
So we clearly have challenges right now with predominantly the Delta variant of coronavirus spreading at an increasing rate in our community, both national, state, and locally. If we have more individuals with coronavirus, we have more individuals getting hospitalized. And you can see this as perhaps one of the more worrisome trends that we look at today. Since about the beginning of June, we've seen this rapid increase in the number of Utahns in Utah hospitals with COVID now above 450 approaching 500 on a seven day average. About 180 to 190 of those individuals are in intensive care units. And this chart shows the number of new daily hospitalizations, which is beginning to approach 50 individuals each day admitted to a hospital in Utah with coronavirus. Remember the horizontal bars underneath are the darker bars or PCR. The lighter bars are antigen tests. But we're getting, now, to where our seven-day running average is over a 1,000 new cases each day of coronavirus.
So again, all the trends increasing, meaning the virus is spreading more rapidly that's causing more hospitalizations and more deaths. The positivity rate, although high, 15 percent in the people-over-people method, about 11 percent or so in the test-over-test method, both lines, although there's some up and down day-to-day variation, more or less stable for the last couple of months here. About the last month, you can see, again, taking out the up and down variation, leveling off from these steep increases that we had seen in the prior two months. So hopefully that leveling off positive rate is assigned, but we actually need it to come down for us to get this virus spread turned around.
So a new element of the Delta variant and the fact that vaccines are not yet available for those under the age of 12, we're keeping an eye on the one to 14-year-olds. The blue line is the positive cases, seven-day average of COVID cases in one to 14-year-olds in 2020, and now in 2021. And you can see here the month of August saw a substantial increase. It actually had probably started back here in June and July then really accelerated into August with the number and proportion of the positive cases being in the one to 14-year-olds.
A trend or a reality that we see in all of the positive cases in the hospitalizations and in the deaths is this differentiation between those that are unvaccinated and those that are fully vaccinated. In this chart, we show the number of new coronavirus cases adjusted by population by vaccination status. And you can see that it's really been the unvaccinated individuals, which have gone from about 15 or so cases per 100,000, now up approaching 65 cases per 100,000. Whereas the vaccinated group, although there has been an increase as there's more and more virus circulating, not quite level, but certainly, you can see a very different slope for the vaccinated number of new cases still hovering in that 10 to 15 range. So vaccinated individuals hovering in a 10 to 15 per 100,000, unvaccinated starting back there in June at that level. But now again, up to 65 with a very steep trajectory on increases. The vast majority of new cases are in unvaccinated individuals. And certainly, that's what we're seeing in the hospital, the vast majority of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized are unvaccinated.
So the importance of vaccination cannot be stressed enough. I please ask all of you, if you're not vaccinated to please get vaccinated, the vaccine is making a difference. And I know, at a time, this is not where we had hoped to be this fall in this pandemic, but I do want to acknowledge our great health care teams here at the University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, University of Utah Health, but also our colleagues at Intermountain Health, Steward Health, HCA, all the health care professionals that are coming together to provide this care. I know the pandemic is wearing on us, but I just do want to remind everyone, pandemics end, this pandemic will eventually end and that vaccination is such an important part of that way we get to that ending of a pandemic, but as you hopefully are reading there's many articles being written about the path to ending a pandemic.
Again, I just want to close this week reminding everybody, pandemics end, this one will also, we just need to continue to work together and do things together and to do things individually in our personal lives, particularly vaccination, separation, wearing face masks, especially when we're indoors around others and other public health measures. And we will get this pandemic to an end as well. That's our update for August 31, 2021. We'll be back in a couple of weeks with another update or sooner should conditions change. Have a good week.
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.