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COVID-19 cases in Utah
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Local health officials: “January is going to be pretty rough”

Local health officials are predicting that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Utah will surge throughout January. (Photo: University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Local health officials are predicting coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Utah will surge throughout the month of January.

Anticipating a rough January

The bleak outlook comes after the state health department reported over 3,700 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and then 4,597 additional cases Thursday.

Additionally, 537 people are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus, as statewide ICU capacity approaches 90%.

In a recent press conference, Dr. Eddie Stenehjem with Intermountain Healthcare explained this is the onset of a “holiday spike” that health officials have been forecasting.

“We’re seeing patients in the hospital presenting stories of, ‘Yeah, I had a holiday gathering, a couple days later someone got sick,'” he explains. “It’s those high risk individuals that we’re seeing now turn positive from exposure at the holidays and now requiring hospitalizations.”

He said if this is indeed the relative beginning of a “holiday spike,” then a surge of cases and hospitalizations can be expected for at least a week or so.

“We anticipate that the month of January is going to be pretty rough,” he said.

Controlling the future

The good news is that the statewide outlook beyond that point is still in our control.

“How long we see [cases] rise is really dependent on what people do and revert back to after the new year,” Dr. Stenehjem said.

Even though the statewide vaccine rollout is starting to gather momentum, health officials say it won’t be enough to get cases under control. Beyond receiving the vaccine, Utahns will need to stay steadfast with social distancing and mask wearing. 

“The year has changed, but the message hasn’t changed,” said Todd Vento with Intermountain Healthcare on Monday. “You need to still wear a mask and must continue to practice good mitigation and preventative practices to reduce community spread. This is as vital as ever.”