HEALTH

Utah state epidemiologist warns of shutdown, return to orange

Jun 22, 2020, 3:40 PM | Updated: 5:41 pm

Utah dashboard...

The Utah Health Department provides new numbers every day detailing new cases of COVID-19. But the state's dashboard offers a deeper look into what the numbers mean.

SALT LAKE CITY– State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn is warning Utah about a possible shutdown if cases of COVID-19 continue to increase at a rapid rate. 

In a memo written by Dr. Dunn to the Utah Department of Health on Friday, she warned Utah is “quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown.” This comes after a week of record-breaking coronavirus case numbers in the state.

She mentioned Utah is in the “acceleration phase” of the pandemic and “this might be our last chance for course correction. Contact tracing and testing alone will not control this outbreak.” And if Utah can’t decrease the rate of infection by July, 1st, “we need to move the entire state to orange,” Dr. Dunn advised. 

According to Dr. Dunn, the step back to “orange” will “send the message to Utahns that this outbreak continues to be a serious problem, and state leadership is committed to saving lives and preventing a complete economic shutdown.”

Dr. Dunn noted Utah has seen an uptick in cases since May 27, 2020, 12 days after the state moved to “yellow.”

On Saturday, the health department confirmed 644 positive cases without knowing where exactly transmission is coming from. According to the memo, Utah’s current infection rate is 3.5 times higher than Colorado. 

Hospitalizations have been increasing along with positive cases. Dr. Dunn notes in the memo that if COVID-19 hospital trends continue, some Intermountain Healthcare hospitals will run out of conventional ICU beds by July. 

“About 8 percent will be hospitalized one to two weeks later and about 1% will die after about three weeks,” said Dr. Dunn. If case numbers remain the same, an average of 405 cases per day, “around 213 people will be hospitalized per week,” said Dr. Dunn.

It’s estimated that out of the 213 hospitalizations per week, 85 will be those considered “low risk” admitted. Out of hospitalizations, it’s predicted 17 will die and another 11 will die at home or in nursing homes. 

To minimize the spread of COVID-19 and to keep Utah’s economy open, Dr. Dunn stated there needs to be an average of 200 cases per day. 

In order to decrease the state’s case county, Dr. Dunn suggested mandating face coverings, either by government or business enforcement. 

Viral spread getting trickier to track

Health officials say the virus is already very widespread, and without aggressive contact tracing, it’s very hard to know who is infecting who.

Salt Lake County Health Department Spokesman Nicholas Rupp says, “Someone could have five or six potential exposures.  One of them may have been a family member, another may be attending a large community gathering.  It’s hard to know which of those potential exposures actually caused the infection.”

Overall, the county isn’t being hit as hard as some other portion of the state, but Rupp says they have some hotspots they’re concerned about.  Areas like West Valley and Glendale are two examples.  Rupp says they can’t confirm if large public events, like protests, have been increasing the spread.  So far, the county only has two cases that they believe were infected from gatherings like that, although, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of spread there, either.

“It’s really hard to pinpoint any one driving factor behind our increase,” Rupp says.

In the end, Rupp says the virus isn’t something that any health department can handle on their own.

He says, “We’re going to keep getting cases and more people are going to die if everyone in the community doesn’t start doing their part.  By ‘doing their part,’ I mean wearing their face covering whenever they leave home.”

 

Contributing: Paul Nelson

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Health

Melatonin is a hormonal sleep aid. According to the Mayo Clinic, melatonin is produced and released...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Melatonin companies given two years to childproof their product, after melatonin related ER visits increase

The CDC said more than 11,000 children went to the ER in the last two years after ingesting melatonin.

35 minutes ago

An NYU study shows that people with volatile work schedules are more likely to have health concerns...

Emma Keddington

Volatile work schedules linked to burnout and health problems

A new study finds that volatile work schedules causes burnout and is detrimental to overall health.

4 hours ago

Valley Fever in Washington County...

Britt Johnson

Valley Fever cases increase in southern Utah

Valley Fever cases in southern Utah are ticking up. Professor of Epidemiology, Katharine Walter gives advice on how to spot it.

1 day ago

Utah's pharmacy shelves are feeling the strain as the state grapples with a substancial drug shorta...

Eric Cabrera

Drug shortages in Utah pharmacies leave many without medication

Utah's pharmacies grapple with drug shortages. According to a recent study, Utah is the fourth highest in the country for drug shortages.

2 days ago

Artificial intelligence could be the next tool used in mental health therapy....

Amanda Dickson

Artificial intelligence may be able to help with your mental health

University of Utah researchers are working to understand how artificial intelligence and mental health therapists might work together.

2 days ago

Talking about STI status and testing can be more comfortable if you use a kind yet assertive approa...

Kristen Rogers, CNN

Dating someone new? Here’s how to ask them about their STI status

You’ve just started dating someone new, and things are heating up when you realize you haven’t asked them about their sexual health status. 

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Utah state epidemiologist warns of shutdown, return to orange