HEALTH

Salt Lake County in low COVID transmission, at risk for new variant spike

Mar 21, 2022, 5:24 PM | Updated: Mar 23, 2022, 8:52 am
Health Department COVID transmission...
Department of Health building in Salt Lake City. Photo credit: Paul Nelson.

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Salt Lake County is now in low COVID-19 transmission. But the county may not be out of the woods with a new variant making the rounds. 

“Because B.A. 2 is more transmissible and because just over 60% of Salt Lake County’s population isn’t up to date [on vaccinations] – meaning boosted –  that’s a large potential for another spike, another surge in cases,” Nicholas Rupp, Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman, told KSL NewsRadio.

Good and bad news with new variant

The good news, Rupp said, is that the new B.A.2 variant doesn’t appear to be any more serious than Omicron, and, getting boosted offers significant protection.

“[A potential spike] may not impact our hospital’s system as severely as another variant would have such as Delta, but that doesn’t mean that it’s innocuous,” said Rupp. 

Rupp said right now, they’re keeping an eye on the new variant. He reports as of March 1, only 5% of cases in the county are the B.A.2 variant but they expect that number will grow.

However, the bad news is that it is possibly more transmissible, and it may be less treatable with monoclonal antibodies. 

“The overarching message about B.A.2 is that you aren’t likely to need those treatments and you don’t need to worry as much about transmissibility if you are up-to-date on vaccines –because it will protect you from B.A.2,” said Rupp.

Low transmission ‘should be celebrated’

Meanwhile, the county health department said the county moving into low transmission is good news.

“It means that we don’t need to be wearing masks widespread throughout our community,” Rupp said. 

The CDC recommendations for areas in low transmission are just two things, according to Rupp, “one, stay up to date on your COVID vaccine, and get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID.”

Statewide hospitalizations low 

The Utah Department of Health said 130 people are currently hospitalized with COVID statewide.

It’s been almost exactly a year since Utah had so few patients in the hospital with COVID-19.

The last time Utah hit that number was March 25, 2021.

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Salt Lake County in low COVID transmission, at risk for new variant spike