Utah health official warns that stay home order could last for months

Utah State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn speaks during the daily COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 3, 2020.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah state epidemiologist Angela Dunn hinted that the directive to Stay Safe Stay Home could be in effect for longer than just a few more weeks. The top health official spoke during a press conference Monday afternoon, as the state continued to see a gradual increase in the number of positive cases to COVID-19.

The press conference occurred as the Utah Department of Health announced 1675 cases within the state. Those cases have resulted in 138 hospitalizations and 13 deaths.

Dr. Dunn said it was important to focus more on long term trends and not individual daily numbers. The data shows Utah has a lower hospitalization and fatality rate, partially because of the state’s younger demographics.

“We are fortunate in Utah that we have held steady at a less than 10 percent hospitalization rate and our death rate has also been low,” Dunn said. “A lot of that has to do with our younger population. We have a large percentage of our population that is less than 65 years. So, we have less risk for severe outcomes due to COVID-19. However, we are always preparing for worst case scenarios in case those projections don’t hold true.”

Throughout northern Utah and southeastern Idaho, there are now 22 cases of the virus in Cache County and 11 in Box Elder County. Rich, Franklin, Bear Lake and Oneida counties have yet to record a positive case.

Dunn explained that the data models for the state show that the number of cases should peak around the end of April.

“That is where we are still on trend. However, these are all models and so the daily case counts and the more data we put into these models, the more accurate they will be and they are likely to change over the coming weeks as well.”

As a precaution, officials with the state’s Coronavirus Task Force have started organizing quarantine and isolation sites along with alternate care stations if the need arises. One of those site has been set up at an expo center in Sandy.

Dunn discussed Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s stay home directive, compared to orders that have been issued in neighboring states. She said the Coronavirus Task Force continues to evaluate whether an order is necessary.

“We are constantly updating Governor Herbert with the latest data and recommendations and if he chooses to make changes in the directive, and make it an order, he will certainly update us all. However, the stay at home directive is expected to be followed by everybody in Utah. So we are expecting everybody to stay at home and only leave for critical services and maintain social distancing for the coming weeks and potentially months.”

Health officials continue to recommend that anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 be tested. They include a fever, cough and shortness of breath.


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