Sobering Milestone: 1,000 Utahns Lost To COVID-19
Dec 10, 2020, 11:35 AM | Updated: 12:12 pm
(Used by permission from Lindsay Wootton)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The state of Utah has passed a grim milestone in the fight against coronavirus. Over 1,000 Utahns have now died and left family, friends and neighbors grieving.
On Thursday, officials with the Utah Department of Health reported 21 more Utahns have died of COVID-19 since Wednesday. The total number of Utah deaths attributed to the virus was at 1,016.
“This is the third day we’ve reported over 20 deaths each day,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn. “Sadly, this is related to the November surge in cases. We now have over 1000 deaths from cases of COVID-19.”
Dunn said the surge officials expected from Thanksgiving holiday not been nearly as dramatic as they feared. She credited Utahns for wearing face masks, social distancing and minimizing holiday gatherings.
It took 66 days to go from the first death of a Utah resident to the 100th, but only 8 days between 900 and 1000. There have been more than 67 deaths reported in just the last three days.
If those numbers continue to rise, the number of Utahns taken by COVID-19 could climb to more than 1500 before the end of 2020.
“When you see on the news, ‘We’ve had this many deaths’, I go, ‘Yeah, one of those is Carol.’”
‘Too Many Utahns Have Lost Their Lives’
Some have argued that many people have overreacted to the coronavirus – that the survival rate of those who become infected is over 98 percent, so why the need for face masks, remote learning and social distancing.
Though the rate of deaths may remain statistically low, each of those numbers represent friends, family members and individuals whose lives have been lost. In most cases, those people have been isolated, alone, and unable to spend their dying moments with loved ones.
“If you didn’t take it seriously before, please take this very seriously now.”
Of the 995 COVID-related deaths in Utah reported as of Wednesday, 76 percent were people age 65 and older. The elderly make up 12 percent of Utah’s population, and about two-thirds of those people lived in nursing homes.
“The risk to everyone, and particularly to older adults right now, today is as high in Utah as it has ever been,” said Dr. Mark Supiano, chief of the division of geriatrics at University of Utah Health.
At the UDOH briefing on Thursday, December 4, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said that far too many grandparents have died.
“Unfortunately, we are continuing to spread the disease to people who can’t handle the serious effects,” he said. “That’s a tragedy for a state that considers themselves very, very family-oriented and very family-friendly.”
Health officials have also reported the deaths of 183 people between the ages of 45 to 64; 42 people age 25 to 44; and 5 people between the ages of 15 to 24.
In numbers reported Thursday, Salt Lake County had the highest number of COVID deaths in the state with 447, followed by Utah County with 165, Washington County with 88, Davis County with 71 and Weber County with 67.
Nearly every county has reported at least one person who has died of COVID, with the exception of Daggett, Rich, and Wayne counties – three of the four least populated counties in Utah. Each of those areas has active coronavirus cases.
Robert Rose: First COVID-19 Death In Utah
The first virus-related death in the state was 79-year-old Bountiful resident Robert Rose. He died on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
Officials from the Utah Department of Health said Rose entered Lakeview Hospital Friday, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and died the following day.
“We share in this family’s grief and are deeply committed to doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of our community.”
His case was considered “travel related,” and family told KSL he had underlying medical conditions.
“Even though we knew some Utah residents would lose their lives to this illness, it is heartbreaking to announce this first death,” Utah state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said at the time. “We share in this family’s grief and are deeply committed to doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of our community.”
She gave a somber warning to all Utahns.
“If you didn’t take it seriously before, please take this very seriously now. We are in this for the long haul,” she said.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert expressed his condolences on social media.
“First and foremost, Jeanette and I want to express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this individual,” he said. “The pain this family must be feeling right now puts into perspective the sacrifices we are all making to keep one another safe and healthy. We encourage everyone to do their part by practicing safe health practices, including social distancing.”
BREAKING: A Davis County man who was older than 60 has died from the coronavirus, making it the first virus-related death in the state, according to the Utah Department of Health.https://t.co/4mJT5uG9G4
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) March 22, 2020
‘This is real. This is not a joke.’
Silvia Melendez was one of the first four Utahns to die of COVID-19.
Her father, Marcos Melendez, was the first one in his family to show symptoms. Silvia and her mother eventually got so sick that they were both admitted to the hospital. Both tested positive for COVID-19.
Family said the 24-year-old was high risk after undergoing open-heart surgery for a tumor two years before, and she had Type 2 diabetes.
Silvia’s sister-in-law, Angelica Macias, said she was a fighter.
“If someone went through heart surgery like that at 22 and she survived it, we knew that she was a fighter and she was a warrior,” said Macias.
Silvia died at University Hospital on Saturday, March 28.
Her father was still in quarantine at home, and wasn’t there to say goodbye.
“I wanted to hug my daughter, but I know she’s in a good place right now,” Melendez said through tears.
KSL TV spoke again to Melendez before Thanksgiving. He said he was doing everything he could to remember his daughter.
“It’s very hard, you know, especially with all these holidays coming up,” he said. “I miss her a lot.”
Melendez said people should take the virus seriously.
“This is real. This is not a joke. This is something (that’s) getting worse and worse every day,” he said.
Saying Goodbye Over The Phone
Carol Moody died of COVID on May 21. The 71-year-old was a wife, a mother and a grandmother. Her family said she loved being all three.
She first started showing symptoms on May 5. Two days later she went to the doctor, and was admitted to the hospital with dangerously low blood oxygen levels.
Carol would never see her family members in person again after that day.
Following her diagnosis, her husband John, son Roger and his wife Hilary, son Robert and his husband Glen all came down with COVID-19.
“It’s very hard, you know, especially with all these holidays coming up. I miss her a lot.”
John was admitted to the hospital, as well. Both were given convalescent plasma from others who had beaten the disease. For John, it was a lifesaver.
The treatment didn’t work for Carol.
Doctors told John his wife was unlikely to improve. They decided to terminate her care. John, still hospitalized, said goodbye to his wife of nearly 50 years over the phone. He later learned she had left a note for him.
“I’ll be waiting for you,” she wrote.
“When you see on the news, ‘We’ve had this many deaths’, I go, ‘Yeah, one of those is Carol,’” John said.
13 Die In Salt Lake Veterans Home
Like thousands of long-term care facilities in the country, a deadly coronavirus outbreak swept through the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home.
The outbreak was first discovered on May 18. Over the course of the next few months, 51 residents and 30 staff members tested positive for COVID-19, and 38 residents have recovered.
Unfortunately, 13 veterans died.
One of those killed was Bill Christoffersen, the man who the building was named after – and whose efforts over 30 years led to the nursing home.
The World War II veteran was just shy of his 94th birthday when he died in June.
“Bill was a dear friend of mine,” said Terry Schow, former director of the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, and a Vietnam veteran.
The outbreak at the facility was brought under control by mid-August.
Minority Populations Hit Hard By COVID
COVID-19 has struck particularly hard among the Hispanic, American Indian, and Pacific Islander populations.
Health officials reported 179 deaths among the Hispanic community, which also accounted for over 24 percent of all coronavirus cases, despite making up just 14 percent of the state’s population.
There were high mortality rates among the American Indian and Pacific Islander populations, with 82 and 80 deaths per 100,000 people – much higher than the state average of 32 per 100,000.
The virus has been particularly high in the Navajo Nation, some of which is within Utah’s southeastern border. Health officials reported 693 COVID deaths there. It was not clear how many of those deaths were from people living within Utah.
Share Your Story
These 1,000 deaths are not just a “number.” They represent 1,000 individuals who have lost their lives to a deadly virus – thousands of family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers mourning the loss of a loved one. If you would be willing to talk about your family member who was lost to COVID, please send your information to email@example.com.
Jed Boal, Tania Dean, Brittany Glas, Cindy St. Clair and Aley Davis contributed to this report.
Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is COVID-19? Here’s What You Need To Know To Stay Healthy: ksltv.com/432037/what-is-covid-19/
Latest coronavirus stories from KSL can be found at staging.ksltv.com/coronavirus/.
Where in the world has the coronavirus already appeared? See the map: staging.ksltv.com/?p=432035
Your Life Your Health: How can parents prepare their home, children against coronavirus: staging.ksltv.com/?p=432060
How do I prevent it?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water is not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.