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Salt Lake County releases details on their response to the pandemic

(Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, at podium, breaking down the numbers of the county's COVID-19 response. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE COUNTY – How well has Salt Lake County fared during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic?  County Mayor Jenny Wilson is releasing more details about the county’s response, and talking about how they’re getting ready to distribute a possible vaccine. 

The county asked residents to fill out a survey about how they felt about things like public health, consumer confidence and the economy during the pandemic.  County Mayor Jenny Wilson says she was especially concerned at the response to the question, “Do you think the worst is behind us or yet to come?”  Wilson says most people thought things were going to get worse before they got better, and she disagrees with this sentiment.

She says, “I am confident the worst is behind us and there are better days ahead.”

The county’s response plan focused on five key areas.  They wanted to quickly form a unified command to have one entity coordinating their effort.  They wanted to increased testing and contact tracing.  They focused on reaching out to vulnerable communities.  They wanted to base their decisions on evidence, and they wanted federal CARES Act money to support the entire community.

Wilson also say they wanted to make public health and safety their top priority, but they couldn’t ignore what the pandemic was doing to the economy.

She says, “We’re also understanding there is this nexus between health recovery and consumer confidence and out businesses thriving, again.  That nexus is really, really critical.”

Since Wilson mandated face coverings in late June, she says the number of positive tests results have gone down, significantly.  They’ve also seen a 66 percent drop in the number of cases in the county’s Hispanic population, and a 55 percent drop in the Pacific Islander population.

Overall, more than 275 thousand residents, essentially 25 percent of the county’s population, have been tested for COVID-19.  County officials also say…

 

  • Over 671 thousand face coverings have been given out
  • Information about virus prevention has been translated into 15 different languages
  • $34 million in CARES Act funding has been given to municipalities
  • $11.4 million was given to schools to help fill technology needs
  • 15 thousand laptops have been given to students

 

One of the biggest things the county has to prepare for is distributing a vaccine when it becomes available.  Wilson says they won’t accept one until it has been proven to be safe and effective. 

Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Gary Edwards says he has been on the phone constantly with the CDC to get the latest on the progress in making a vaccine.  He says there could be one available in October or November, however, the first doses will likely be given to nurses, doctors and other health care workers as well as first responders.  Other adults likely won’t get one until 2021.  Kids will have to wait even longer.

Edwards says, “The vaccine is not being tested, at all, on children.  So, when we would have a vaccine for individuals under 18, we don’t know.”

When a vaccine is made, the Utah Department of Health will be in charge of assuring smaller, local health boards get what they need.  Edwards says they’re working very closely with state officials to come up with an effective plan.

“We’re identifying priority groups, identifying distribution strategy.  [We’re identifying] who, in addition to the health department would be vaccinators in the community.  All of those things are being talked about and prepared for, now,” he says.

 

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