Delayed lab report leads to ‘artificially high’ report of 552 new cases of COVID-19 in Utah


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Roberto Perez Valencia and his family tried to be careful. They didn’t go out except when they had to, and if they did, they wore masks to reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19, says Valencia’s widow Gabriela Hueramo.

Hueramo, Valencia and their three daughters were still infected. They started showing symptoms of the virus on July 26 and 27. Hueramo said her husband appeared to be managing his symptoms at their home in Payson.

Then, on August 6, things got worse.

“It just went down in a few hours,” Hueramo said. “He started to have trouble breathing.

She took Valence to the Mountain View Hospital in Payson on August 7. He died there that day.

Valence was 37 years old.

He is one of 56 Utahns to have died so far this month, with seven new deaths reported on Friday.

A delay in reporting resulted in a high number of new coronavirus cases in Utah on Friday, with 552 new diagnoses added to the state total.

“Of these 552 cases, 144 of them are due to a delay in notifying a laboratory since early July, so the number today is artificially high,” the Department of Health wrote. Utah in a press release. The state has not identified the laboratory that handled the cases.

For tests processed in the past seven days, Utah has averaged 369 new positive results per day, the Utah Department of Health reported Friday. Gov. Gary Herbert had said he wanted the state to reach fewer than 400 new cases per day by September 1 – and after three weeks of declining numbers, it would take a sharp rise in infections to exceed that target.

The rate of tests with positive results was 8.8% on Friday, up slightly from Thursday after a drop that began late last week. State epidemiologist Dr Angela Dunn said a 3% positivity rate would indicate the virus is under control.

Statewide, the positive test rate in Utah has been above 5% since May 25, according to UDOH data.

As of Friday, 5,161 new test results were reported, but about 1,700 of them were results delayed from early July, UDOH said. That leaves about 3,460 recent test results in Friday’s tally – well below the 7-day average of about 4,260 new tests per day.

Demand for testing has been declining since late July, state officials and hospital administrators said; as of mid-July, the state was reporting an average of more than 7,000 new test results per day.

Hospitalizations were down slightly on Friday, with 171 patients from Utah admitted simultaneously, UDOH reported. On average, 190 patients received treatment in Utah hospitals each day over the past week, continuing a decline from a peak average of 211 inpatients about two weeks ago.

A total of 2,744 patients have been hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, up 23 from Thursday.

Utah’s death toll from the coronavirus stood at 360 on Friday. The seven deaths reported on Friday are:

  • A woman from San Juan County, aged 65 to 84, who lived in a long-term care facility.

  • Utah County woman, aged 65 to 84, died in hospital.

  • Salt Lake County woman, aged 45 to 64, died in hospital.

  • Three women from Salt Lake County, aged 65 to 84, each living in a long-term care facility.

  • A man from Salt Lake County, over 85, who lived in a long-term care facility.

Despite the five deaths of residents in long-term care facilities, new outbreaks in nursing homes and care centers were on the decline. 23 such centers were on the Utah Department of Health’s outbreak list as of Friday, up from 32 on the August 7 list.

But the cooling hot spots do not change the need for the Utahns to continue to wear masks and avoid contact with others, Hueramo said.

“I am really angry, to be honest,” Hueramo said on Friday in a telephone interview. “All the people who are irresponsible and don’t want to wear masks just because it takes away their freedom or something like that. To me, it’s just a lack of common sense and a lack of decency.

Valencia was born in Cuitzeo del Porvenir, in the Mexican state of Michoacán. He and Hueramo married in 2007. Hueramo said his father had lived in Utah for about 30 years. In 2008, Hueramo said that she and Valencia decided to follow her father to Utah “to give our children a better opportunity in life.”

Hueramo works at Walmart and Valencia has worked on a mink farm while enjoying art, music, and sports and games with his daughters, now 18, 15 and 10. Hueramo said she did not know how her family contracted the virus. She still coughs and says she and her daughters are recovering.

Latinos in Utah have disproportionately high rates of coronavirus infections. Hueramo said she and Valencia had health insurance and sick pay that allowed them to stay home when they contracted the virus, but many Latinos work in service jobs that expose them to others and not provide no benefits.

“I think that’s the big factor here right now – the lack of medical insurance and the lack of being able to get basic medical care,” Hueramo said.

Of 45,976 Utahns who tested positive for COVID-19, 36,679 are considered “recovered” – that is, they survived for at least three weeks after being diagnosed.

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