Intermountain Healthcare reflects on the anniversary of COVID-19 in Utah

Feb 28, 2021, 12:05 PM | Updated: Mar 1, 2021, 8:41 am
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(Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. KSL TV, file)
(Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. KSL TV, file)

MURRAY, Utah — How does one mark the anniversary of the arrival of COVID-19 in Utah? 

You may remember that exactly one year ago Intermountain Healthcare (IHC) was tasked with providing care for the first case of COVID-19 in Utah.

Sunday, IHC hosted a Facebook live event where the doctors and patients took the time to reflect on what happened just a short year ago. 

The critical cruise

St. George resident Mark Jorgensen and his wife Jerri were infected with COVID-19 during a cruise that took them to Asia for a vacation. Initially, no one seemed to know what to do with Americans overseas as the virus ravaged the cruise ship.

“That whole thing was a nightmare,” he said Sunday. 

There was what he described as a “battle between the CDC, the State Department and the White House” over whether to allow the Americans on the Diamond Princess back into the US. 

Eventually, though, he returned to Utah, becoming the state’s first COVID-19 patient. IHC caregivers treated Mark Jorgensen in an advanced special unit designed for high-level isolation at their Murray location.

There, he was monitored for a week at which point the CDC said it was safe for him to quarantine at home.

Utah’s COVID-19 anniversary 

Jorgensen never developed symptoms of COVID-19, he acknowledged on the anniversary of the virus in Utah. 

Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease specialist at Intermountain Healthcare, said Jorgensen’s initial isolation came from the initial guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the time, the CDC recommended patients test negative for COVID-19 before leaving isolation. As a result, Jorgensen spent weeks cooped up at home. 

Vento recalled phoning Jorgensen with the news. 

“I do remember that phone call,” Vento said, “calling him … and then one day saying, ‘Hey, you’re free to be out of isolation.’ I remember him saying, ‘Wait, I’m still positive.’ I said, ‘That’s right, but now the CDC has a new approach.’

A learning curve

“I think the lesson there is, we learn things,” Vento said. “We have to change, we have to adjust. People said not to use masks; that probably set us back quite a bit. Now we know that the data is incredible for masks, and we need to use masks and we need to accept that. But you can see when you have these steep learning curves early on, sometimes folks will interpret that as, ‘Oh, maybe you don’t know what you’re doing.’ Well, the reality is, we really didn’t. And why is that? We had a virus we had never heard of, never seen, until December of 2019. We had to learn very quickly.”

Since then, doctors recommend asymptomatic patients isolate at home for 10 days after testing positive, rather than waiting for a negative test. 

Jorgensen does not regret his travels. 

“I’m actually in Costa Rica right now,” he said. “This is our first international travel since all of this. So, obviously, we’re not letting any fear of that stop us. That’s just kind of our philosophy in life.”

Fast forward to COVID-19 in Utah today

For the past several months, the Utah Department of Health has provided statistical information about the COVID-19 virus in Utah. They’ve included the number of new positive cases as well as a running total for the state. And their daily update has included the number of Utahns tested for COVID-19, the number of Utahns who are currently hospitalized, the percentage of positive cases, the number of Utahns who have died, and recently, the number of Utahns who have received doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The update provided on Sunday showed that 465 additional Utahns have tested positive for COVID-19 since the Department’s report a day earlier. The total number of Utahns who have tested for positive is now 371,235.

Other COVID-19 in Utah trends

The state continues on an upward trajectory in the number of vaccines administered. On Sunday 716,536 Utahns had received vaccination doses, 14,243 more than the previous day.

The rolling 7-day average for percent positivity (in the “people over people” category) is 11.6%.

And right now, the Utah Department of Health reports that 203 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah. More than 14,600 Utahns have been hospitalized since the beginning of the global pandemic.

Finally, Utah officials reported that six more Utahns have died of COVID-19. They were four men ranging in age from 45 to 85 in Summit, Salt Lake, Tooele, and Utah counties.  Additionally, the deaths of two Utah women were added to the total, they were between the ages of 65 and 84 and lived in long-term care facilities in Weber and Salt Lake County.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, 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.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • 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.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

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 Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

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Intermountain Healthcare reflects on the anniversary of COVID-19 in Utah