Cache County’s latest COVID-19 infection numbers include a spike in cases, much of which local epidemiologists are attributing to an outbreak at the Cache County Jail.
On Friday, the Bear River Health Department reported 42 new coronavirus infections in Cache County, along with 74 on Thursday. Prior to Thursday, the county’s rolling 7-day average had been hovering around 20 new cases daily. After the spike, that rolling average is up to about 27 new cases daily.
“Aside from the jail outbreak, it’s pretty normal growth from what we expected from where we were in the past two weeks,” said BRHD Epidemiologist Caleb Harrison. “A pretty slow and steady increase.”
Cache County Sheriff Chad Jensen told The Herald Journal that as of Wednesday, about 35 individuals at the jail had tested positive. Most of those people were asymptomatic. According to BRHD spokesperson Estee Hunt, most of the people who tested positive in this outbreak were not vaccinated.
“From my understanding, it’s a pretty isolated incident, obviously unfortunate,” Harrison said. “I don’t expect it to spill over, if at all, into the community just because it’s a pretty contained outbreak there.”
Aside from the outbreak, newly confirmed cases are slowly and steadily climbing, Harrison said, although the hope is that with nearly half of the health district’s population documented as having some measure of immunity, through previous infections and now especially through vaccinations, infection rates won’t grow quite as quickly as they did a year ago.
“Hopefully that exponential growth won’t quite be as exponential this year,” Harrison said.
Last year, aside from a severe outbreak affecting hundreds of meatpacking workers, Cache County had a relatively calm summer. The 7-day rolling average bottomed out at about five new cases in mid-August. From there, rates seemed to be increasing slowly and steadily at first but continued growing exponentially until peaking right around Thanksgiving with more than 150 new cases daily.
From July 1-30, the three-county health district recorded 34 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, Harrison said, which was about on par with June’s 38.
The silver lining with the increasing infections, Hunt said, is that more people have also been deciding to vaccinate.
“As we see these increases, we are also seeing increases in people getting vaccinated,” Hunt said.
COVID-19 vaccines are currently available for free for all individuals 12 and older. Following recent evidence that the COVID-19 “delta” variant, the CDC has recommended even vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in areas it classifies as “substantial” or “high” transmission. In the Bear River Health Department, the CDC lists Cache and Box Elder counties as high transmission and Rich County as low.
For more information on vaccinations, visit brhd.org/covid-19-vaccine-information.