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Utah COVID-19 daily briefing
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A good sign, but possible problems on horizon due to COVID-19 in Utah

(State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn, right, and ASL interpreter Clay Anderson, left, report on the progress of the virus Thursday, March 26, 2020. Credit: KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY – State health workers say they’re seeing a very positive sign when it comes to the rate of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Utah.  But, they say it’s still too early to know if the number has hit its peak. And at the same time, they want to avoid a possible strain on the state’s healthcare system.

The good sign

During their now-daily news conference, Utah state health officials said that the number of new confirmed cases is still on the rise. But, it’s the rate of increase that has doctors feeling a tinge of optimism.

In recent weeks, the number of new patients would rise nearly 30% every day.  However, for the past three days, that percentage has been on the decline, although, it’s too early to know if we’re “flattening the curve,” as doctors say.

State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn says, “It’s certainly a great sign, but we still need to wait those 14 days to determine how the trend is really looking.”

By Thursday afternoon, more than 7,700 people had been tested, which is 873 more than had been tested on Wednesday.  Dunn says it takes roughly three days for data around the state to get to the Utah Department of Health.  So, we might see a big change in those numbers thanks to a major expansion in the number of people who can be tested every day.

“This data is probably truly reflective of Monday’s test results, “she said.  “We expect, in the coming days, for these numbers to drastically increase as our healthcare systems started drive-through testing earlier this week.”

Out of those 402 patients, how many are still infected?  Dunn says that’s hard to track.

“Ninety percent of our cases recover on their own, at home, without clinical care.  Ten percent of our hospitalized patients are expected to fully recover.”

The potential problem

However, with the number of new cases still rising, Dunn says there’s a very real possibility that hospitals won’t be ready for a dramatic spike in patients if that were to happen.

“We’re working with the Lieutenant Governor’s task force and the governor’s office,” she said, “to procure more ventilators and more options for bed space if we do have a surge on our healthcare systems.”

The Utah Department of Health is considering other ways to treat large groups of patients in case hospitals run out of room.

Dunn says, “In other states and in other pandemics, places like convention centers, potentially hotels (in those situations) have been established as ‘pop up hospitals.’  We’re assessing all of those situations in Utah to ensure access to quality care continues throughout this outbreak.”

Summit County issued a stay-at-home order this week, which lasts until May 1.  Salt Lake County officials say they’re considering a similar order, but they want to collaborate with the state before they make any decision.  Doctors say those two counties are seeing the highest rates of infection.

“Right now, there are no plans to issue a statewide stay-at-home order,” Dunn says.

RELATED LINKS

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Summit County issues stay-at-home order amid COVID-19 outbreak

 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus 

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading: 

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.  
  • Don’t touch your face. 
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet) 
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.) 
  • Get a flu shot. 

Resources for more information: 

Local 

State of Utah  

Utah State Board of Education 

Utah Hospital Association 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707 

National 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization 

Cases in the United States