See which 7 Utah counties have high COVID levels, should be masking, per CDC

More than 40% of Utahns live in counties with high COVID-19 levels and should be universally masking in public indoor spaces to protect themselves — and others — from the latest coronavirus variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The seven Utah counties considered to have high COVID-19 community levels are: Salt Lake, San Juan, Summit, Tooele, Wasatch, Wayne and Piute, with a combined total population of almost 1.4 million residents. That’s about 2 in 5 Utahns.

The CDC’s first recommendation for high-transmission counties is unambiguous: “Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status.” That includes K-12 schools and “other indoor community settings.”

None of the state’s 29 counties requires public indoor masking. In Utah, county health departments can issue mask mandates; cities and local school districts cannot. However, county governing bodies as well as the Legislature can overturn them, as state lawmakers did in January, immediately ending the mask mandates issued in Salt Lake and Summit counties amid the winter omicron variant surge.

This summer, the new, even more transmissible BA.5 omicron subvariant is sweeping across the country, driving up case counts. It became the dominant variant in the U.S. by late June.

As of this week, 16 Utah counties are considered to have medium COVID-19 community levels: Beaver, Cache, Daggett, Davis, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Juab, Kane, Millard, Sanpete, Sevier, Uintah, Utah and Washington.

Six counties are considered to have low COVID-19 community levels: Box Elder, Carbon, Emery, Morgan, Rich and Weber.

‘More and more people are getting sick’

Dr. Russell Vinik, chief medical operations officer at University of Utah Health, also advised that Utahns in high-transmission counties should be wearing masks when they are indoors in a public place, noting that BA.5 is the most transmissible strain yet.

“More and more people are getting sick,” he said. “And we know that the publicly reported numbers are a significant underestimate as compared to previous waves, because so many people are home testing. Whereas during the January wave, people couldn’t get their hands on a home test.”

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The first week of April, there were 699 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Utah. The state averaged 1,082 cases per week that month.

Last week, 7,819 new cases were reported. Over the past four weeks, Utah has averaged 7,014 new weekly cases — again, not counting anyone who tested positive at home.

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