SALT LAKE CITY — Days before the state could loosen restrictions on businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials reported the number of new cases are continuing to show a flattening of the curve. For the second day in a row, no deaths were also reported throughout the state.
Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn said the numbers are encouraging. In an effort to continue to fight the virus and prevent its spread, officials are beginning to expand their contact tracing.
“So we want to be able to identify additional contacts and test them for COVID-19,” explained Dunn. “Up until this point, we have been identifying any close contact two days prior to symptom onset for a confirmed case. Now, we are going to be extending that to seven days backwards. This is going to allow us to identify more individuals with the likelihood of having COVID-19, test them for COVID-19 and recommend isolation if necessary. This will help us continue to control COVID-19 spread here in Utah.”
Monday’s press conference at the state capitol was held as the Utah Department of Health confirmed 110 new cases of COVID-19 during the past 24 hours, a 3 percent growth rate. The report showed a total of 4,233 cases within the state, resulting in 349 hospitalizations throughout the outbreak. The number of people tested reached 100,195.
Dunn said that even though the number of cases continue to increase, the growth rate is going down. If the rate continues for two weeks it will show that the state is plateauing.
“We want to see that go low. So we want to increase the number of people we test but decrease the number of positives we have with all of those tests. That is a sign that we are testing everyone that needs to be tested for COVID-19 while also controlling the spread.”
Friday, Gov. Gary Herbert said officials are considering moving the state from high risk to moderate risk. The change from red to orange could begin Friday.
Dunn said the state’s phased approach for reopening businesses will be slow and restrictions will be in place for some time. The rollout will be tailored because the virus appears to affect each county differently.
“There are a lot of restrictions placed on businesses opening, to ensure social distancing and the prevention of COVID-19 spread. I think that is the right way to do it, to do a slow rollout of opening up businesses while continuing to monitor for disease. So, if we see an increase in cases we increase the restrictions back again. That is how we will find the balance between controlling the disease as best we can, and also preventing a huge burden on our economy.”
To reopen, restaurants will have to rearrange tables so they are at least six feet apart. Outdoor dining will also be recommended if possible. Wait staff will be required to wear masks.
Dunn said by using the phased approach for reopening the economy they don’t expect to see an increase in the number of virus cases. They will be monitoring each county closely though to prevent any possible surges.
“We haven’t had a lot of restrictions in Utah leading up to now, we don’t have a stay at home order that is statewide, so there haven’t been a lot of restrictions up to this point. So we are hopeful that individuals will still maintain social distancing when possible so that we can continue to see the trajectory of cases plateau and go down even when we do open up businesses in a limited way.”
For the second day in a row, the Bear River Health Department reported no new cases. There are a total of 60 positive cases reported in northern Utah, 43 in Cache County, 17 in Box Elder County and none in Rich County.