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Weber, Morgan counties see leveling of COVID-19 case growth, but officials still guarded

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 28, 2021

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Brian Cowan, director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, upper right-hand corner, addresses the Weber-Morgan Board of Health on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

OGDEN  — The rising COVID-19 case count in Weber and Morgan counties has leveled off, at least for the moment, says Brian Cowan, head of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, and it had him sounding at least somewhat optimistic.

“So we’ve kind of rounded a hump, if you will,” he told the Weber-Morgan Board of Health on Monday at the group’s monthly meeting. “If you’re graphing this out, it started a little bit of a decline.”

Health officials have learned “not to get really excited” in such circumstances because trends can rapidly shift. But after an upward trend in the case count in the two counties going on eight weeks, the growth rate, Cowan said, is showing downward movement for the first time in the period. The latest figures show 2,659 active cases in the two counties, a decline of 181 from 2,840 a week earlier.

Moreover, the latest daily average case count for the last seven-day period is 118 cases a day, down from 135 cases a day, he said. “Keeping our fingers crossed,” Cowan said.

On the not-so-bright side, the intensive care units at the two Weber County hospitals, McKay-Dee Hospital and Ogden Regional Medical Center, are still “overwhelmed” owing to COVID-19 cases, he said. There are 30 intensive-care unit beds at the two hospitals under normal circumstances, but 39 people actually require ICU care, 23 of them because of COVID-19.

Cowan has offered weekly updates to Weber County Commissioners on the COVID-19 case count to help officials determine whether mask mandates in schools or other more stringent measures are required to deal with lingering pandemic. So far, though, the situation is manageable, he said, sounding a similar message as in past weeks. In fact, the latest count of active cases COVID-19 cases in schools in Weber and Morgan counties is down from last week, he said, to 240 — 210 among students, 11 among teachers and 19 among staffers, volunteers and others.

“We’re hopeful that we stay on that trend as well,” Cowan said.

In his reports for the prior two weeks, Cowan has cited what he’s described as a lack of cooperation among some parents in quarantining their kids or having them wear masks when they’ve been in contact with others who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Now, he said, schools are getting “a little bit better cooperation.”

Likewise, the 12- to 18-year-old age group continues to register the fastest uptick in vaccinating, with growth of around 1% per week. About 55% of the age group has at least one vaccination shot.

Cowan says the leveling of case growth mirrors figures statewide. Whatever the case, he and other health officials are still watching the numbers and it’s too early to say the new figures represent a definitive downward trend.

Thus far, there have been 65 breakthrough cases in Weber and Morgan counties, that is, 65 cases of vaccinated people contracting the COVID-19 virus. Even so, non-vaccinated people are 5.5 times more likely to be hospitalized in the two counties than the vaccinated, Cowan said. “I think that’s a good reflection on the effectiveness of vaccines and what we hoped they would’ve accomplished,” Cowan said.

Also Monday, the health officials created a workgroup within the Board of Health to work more closely with Cowan and other health department employees in monitoring the evolving COVID-19 caseload.

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