Christine Spencer fills a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Salt Lake City on Dec. 29, 2021. Utah health officials on Thursday reported 699 new COVID-19 cases in the past seven days, as well as 16 additional deaths. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials on Thursday reported 699 new COVID-19 cases in the past seven days, as well as 16 additional deaths.
The new data comes as part of the Utah Department of Health’s weekly updates posted Thursday on the coronavirus dashboard.
Wastewater testing, which the state is relying on to gauge the current COVID-19 situation as fewer people get tested, is showing an increase in virus levels at 18.8% of testing sites, according to the data. That is up from 9.4% the previous Thursday, March 31.
But the prevalence of emergency room visits by those with the coronavirus remains low. Over the past seven days, 0.57% of patients who visited the ER had COVID-19 compared to 0.65% the previous week. On Thursday, 80 patients across Utah hospitals had COVID-19, 15 of whom were in intensive care units.
Utah is no longer releasing granulated data of newly reported deaths due to the coronavirus. It’s unclear whether the 16 deaths added to the total on Thursday occurred recently or in past months
Health care workers administered 3,624 vaccine doses since the previous week’s report. Now 2,257,295 people in Utah have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, 66.6% of Utahns ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated, and 34.1% have received a booster shot.
Although presence of the virus in Utah might be increasing based on wastewater testing, medical experts say booster shots likely provide protection against current strains of COVID-19. The BA.2 subvariant of omicron surpassed omicron as the predominant variant in the U.S. last month, according to Yale Medicine.
A new study led by Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Utah showed that a third dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine gives the strongest protection against the delta variant, but also offers some added protection against omicron compared to the original two doses alone.
The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday found that “a third dose was 91% effective in protecting against infection with the delta variant compared to a two-dose protection level of 65%,” according to a news release from the school. Meanwhile, a third dose provided a protection level of 60% against omicron. Two doses provided just 46% protection against the more transmissible variant, researchers said.
The study notes that “mRNA vaccines continue to provide robust protection against severe outcomes despite omicron’s transmissibility.”
“These results show that in this real-world study of workers, the vaccine continues to be effective against the omicron variant of the virus, although at a reduced rate of efficacy compared with the prior delta variant,” said Dr. Sarang K. Yoon, study lead and assistant professor at Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, in the release.
The researchers examined data on infections between late August and January in health care workers, first responders and others who had received the third dose from a single manufacturer or a combination of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Researchers across the country worked on the study.