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Researchers predict Utah’s COVID-19 death toll could more than double by April

(Technicians gathering a sample at a COVID-19 testing site. Credit, Kristin Murphy, KSL, file)

SALT LAKE CITY – A frightening prediction from researchers about the death toll in Utah from COVID-19.  The University of Washington is projecting the number of people who die from the virus could more than double by the beginning of April, especially if people don’t do a better job of wearing masks.

On Friday, health officials announced nine more COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the state’s total to 1,025.  The Deseret News is reporting only 500 deaths were connected to the virus just two months ago.

Researchers from Washington say the death toll will climb to 2,536 if current trends continue, but we could see as many as 2,764 if mask mandates are done away with and social distance recommendations are not followed.

The Utah Department of Health is aware of the predictions out of Washington, and officials say they don’t rely solely on one study when they make their projections.  However, they say death tolls aren’t difficult to predict.

“If you have large cases numbers one day, in about a month, your probably going to have a large number of people who pass away from COVID-19,” according to UDOH Spokesperson Jenny Johnson.  “We know what percentage of our cases will likely die.  It has been very steady throughout the response.”

Johnson says the deaths we see in the near future aren’t “new cases,” but actually people who have already been infected.  Currently, 568 people are on the hospital for COVID-19 treatment.

“What we’re seeing now, in our deaths and our hospitalizations, is from our surge at the beginning of November,” she says.

However, the picture could change significantly if more people wore masks.  The Washington study projects the death toll would only reach 2,054 if 95 percent of Utahns wore masks.  Johnson believes increased mask usage is one of the reasons why we’re not seeing as big of a surge as health officials were expecting after Thanksgiving.

 “Right now, that is what we have.  We have masks and we have limiting our gatherings,” she says.


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