SALT LAKE CITY — Days before the state is set to loosen restrictions for restaurants and other businesses, officials reported no new deaths from COVID-19. The report was released during Wednesday’s press conference at the state capitol.
Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn said even though some of the guidelines are being relaxed, there are some people who still need to practice extra precautions. Those in the high risk category include those over the age of 65, residents of long-term care facilities and people with underlying health conditions.
“It is still going to be really important for these individuals to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing,” explained Dunn. “If you are someone who cares for an individual in these high risk groups, it is important for you to protect yourself from COVID-19 as well. So when you are out and about, practice social distancing, use good hygiene and when you are providing care, make sure you wear a mask and certainly stay home if you do have symptoms consistent with COVID. This will prevent any infections from getting into our vulnerable population. That is very essential as we move to orange.”
Social distancing recommendations will remain in place for everyone. Groups of 20 or more will be prohibited from congregating. Employees are also encouraged to work from home when possible. Parks will remain open but playground equipment is off limits. Traveling outside of the state is discouraged and trips should be limited as much as possible. Schools and churches will remain closed, possibly through the summer.
Dunn explained face masks should be worn by everyone when they are in public. She praised a decision by Costco to require all customers to wear one before entering their stores.
“It is essential that every Utahan wear a face covering when they are out in public and social distancing is not possible. That is to protect others from your germs. So if retailers such as Costco want to encourage that and provide that opportunity to their customers, I think it is a good thing.”
Wednesday’s press conference was held as the Utah Department of Health confirmed no deaths from the coronavirus during the past 24 hours, keeping the total number of fatalities to 45. There were also 152 new cases recorded, a 3.5 percent growth rate. The report showed a total of 4,495 cases within the state, resulting in 383 hospitalizations throughout the outbreak. It is also estimated that 1,790 patients have recovered.
Dunn said the numbers show the virus continues to impact communities differently, which is why the governor’s recovery plan gives health districts the authority to tailor restrictions for their area.
“We certainly support every local jurisdiction’s ability to increase the restrictions or policies due to COVID-19. It is important to understand that this virus is spreading differently in a lot of communities. So it is important that local policy makers are able to make those decisions for their own communities.”
For the fourth day in a row, the Bear River Health Department reported no new cases. There remains a total of 60 positive cases reported in northern Utah, 43 in Cache County, 17 in Box Elder County and none in Rich County.
Dunn said health officials will be watching cases very closely during the next week as regulations are loosened. Specifically, they will be monitoring hospitalizations, the ability to test those with symptoms and contact tracing.
“If anyone of those metrics shift, if we start to see a surge on our medical systems, if we start to see cases that have a lot of community spread, so we can’t identify where they got COVID from, those are going to be signs that we need to start looking at our policies again and see what interventions might be useful.”
Health officials continue to encourage anyone showing symptoms of the virus be tested. They include a fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches and pains, decrease sense of taste or smell, or a sore throat. Sites are set up at Sterling Urgent Care in Logan, North Cache Valley InstaCare in Hyde Park and the Bear River Clinic in Tremonton.