SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah reported its first death related to COVID-19 on Sunday, a development that officials said underscored the need for people to voluntarily help slow the spread of the disease by washing their hands, practicing social distancing and staying home if they’re sick.
The unidentified man from Davis County who was over 60 years old had been at Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, near Salt Lake City, for two days before his death, the Utah Department of Health and hospital operator Mountainstar HCA said in a joint announcement.
The man had underlying health conditions and is believed to have been infected with the coronavirus while traveling, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said. She declined to provide details about where he had visited.
The man, who had been at home before going to the hospital, tested positive for having the coronavirus Saturday, Dunn said. Health officials are working to identify and contact anyone who may have been in close contact with him. Anyone who did will be asked to quarantine themselves, she said.
She urged those over 60 or who have compromised immune systems to avoid contact with others during the outbreak.
“We are in this for the long haul,” she said.
The family of the man who died followed the correct procedure by calling the hospital before he arrived to report his possible coronavirus diagnosis, Lakeview Hospital CEO Troy Wood said. Workers met him in the hospital’s parking lot in full protective gear, limiting possible exposure.
Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert said he and his wife extended their deepest sympathies to the man’s family and friends.
“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,” Herbert said.
Utah reported 181 cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday.
Utah will still see more cases reported before the outbreak slows, Dunn said, describing the state as being in the “acceleration phase.” However, she did not expect the state to have to issue a mandatory lockdown to control the spread of the virus.
“We’re relying on people to have that discipline to stay at home,” she said.