OGDEN — The rate of spread of COVID-19 is easing in Weber County, good news in efforts to contain the virus.
Last Thursday, the Utah Department of Health lowered the COVID-19 transmission index in Weber County from high to moderate based on a dip in the caseload here. Morgan County, covered along with Weber County by the Weber-Morgan Health Department, also sits in the moderate category.
Lori Buttars, the department spokesperson, offered an upbeat message. But the shift doesn’t mean efforts to fight COVID-19 are over.
“It too early to attribute this to vaccination but it shows the things we are doing as a community are working and we need to keep doing them to get to a point of normalcy. Moderate is not normalcy,” she said. Local health officials, like their state counterparts, endorse mask use, social distancing and more, and that doesn’t change with the shift to the moderate transmission index.
Still, easing from high to moderate creates a bit more wiggle room for some activities, according to Utah Department of Health guidelines. In the moderate transmission stage, the recommended maximum gathering size expands from 10 people, the max in the high transmission category, to 25.
Under a high transmission index, restaurants and bars are required to keep tables 6 feet apart. In the moderate category, by comparison, 6-foot distancing of tables is “strongly recommended.”
Either way, use of face coverings is still required in public or when associating with people outside your household, Buttars said. “We are still recommending that people take these preventive measures to help keep our community healthy and our COVID-19 transmission levels headed on a downward trend,” she said.
The transmission index factors the 14-day COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents in each country, the seven-day average positivity rate for those getting COVID-19 tests and statewide utilization of hospital intensive care unit facilities. When a county meets the “high,” “moderate” or “low” threshold in two of the three categories, it moves into that category.
In Weber County’s case, it sits in the moderate categories in the 14-day COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents (324.2) and the seven-day testing positivity rate (5.64%). The upper end of the moderate category for COVID-19 case rate is 324 per 100,000 people, thus Weber County barely qualifies. To be in the moderate range in the testing positivity rate, the figure must range from 5.1% to 9.9%.
By contrast, Weber County measured a 14-day COVID-19 case rate of 1,163.6 residents per 100,000 as of Dec. 10 last year and a seven-day testing positivity rate of 28.79% at the time.
In Morgan County, the 14-day case rate per 100,000 people as of last Thursday is 199.3 while the seven-day testing positivity rate is 5.54%. Neighboring Davis County still sits in the high COVID-19 transmission category, with a 14-day case rate per 100,000 people of 420.8, regarded as high, and a seven-day testing positivity rate of 6.77%, regarded as moderate. The statewide ICU utilization rate of 81.4% pushes Davis County into the high transmission category.
Meantime, the weekly count of people in Weber and Morgan counties testing positive for COVID-19 continues its downward trend. The number testing positive for COVID-19 for the week ending last Saturday totaled 339, according to health department figures, down from 387 the week before and the sixth consecutive weekly decline. The weekly case count peaked at 2,004 for the week ending Jan. 9 while the 339 total for the week ending last Saturday is the lowest since the 326 cases for the week ending Sept. 26.
After five consecutive weeks of declines in the numbers in Davis County testing positive for COVID-19, the figure for the week ending last Saturday spiked to nearly 1,000. It had dropped below 800 the week before.
Vaccinations that were postponed last Thursday because of delays in vaccine shipments will now be held this coming Thursday, according to Buttars. “All other clinics will be held as scheduled,” she said.
The Dee Events Center on the Weber State University campus is the primary location for vaccinations sponsored by the Weber-Morgan Health Department.