SALT LAKE CITY — As businesses and government offices begin reopening after closing in March due to COVID-19, health officials stressed that social distancing measures continue to be important. The news came as officials announced no new fatalities from the virus during the past day.
Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn spoke at the state capitol Monday afternoon. She explained the number of cases resulting from community spread appears to be dropping throughout the state.
“Only 11 percent of cases appear to be community spread,” said Dunn. “Sixty percent were exposed by someone in their household and 25 percent were exposed to someone they know outside of their household. Only 4 percent were exposed at their workplace.”
Monday’s press conference was held as the Utah Department of Health confirmed 142 new virus cases, a 2.7 percent growth increase. The numbers showed a total of 5,317 cases within the state, resulting in 441 hospitalizations throughout the outbreak. It is also estimated that 2,342 patients have recovered. No new deaths were reported.
Dunn said social distancing remains one of the keys to preventing the spread of COVID-19. She explained that the regulation is just as important around family and friends, as it is around the general public.
“As we roll from red to orange and things start to open up a little bit more, we are still going to rely on people being smart in terms of their exposure, and where they go in protecting themselves along with vulnerable friends and family members, from being exposed to COVID-19. It is something we will definitely have to watch as these restrictions start to become looser.”
Monday’s state capitol press conference was held as the Bear River Health Department reported no new cases of the virus in the past day. The total number of cases in northern Utah is 62. There are 44 in Cache County, 18 in Box Elder County and none in Rich County.
Dunn said even though the number of virus cases are going up, the percentages of cases versus administered tests are going down. Still, officials are closely monitoring each health district to assure the state is able to continue loosening regulations.
“We want to make sure that we are never going to come anywhere near overwhelming our healthcare systems. We also want to make sure that our case growth rate is decreasing. Right now, we are at a great plateau and we want to see it going down. We also want to maintain testing and contact tracing capacity. Without testing and contact tracing we are not going to be able to prevent the spread of COVID-19, no matter how small.”
As part of the moderate regulations, officials advise everyone to stay at least six feet apart when in public settings. Face masks are encouraged to be worn when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Social interactions are prohibited for groups of 20 or more. Symptom checking is encouraged for employees and customers of businesses. Employees are encouraged to still work from home when possible. Travel outside the state is discouraged and other trips should be limited. Also, schools and churches remain closed.
Dunn said health officials worry that as the state moves forward, citizens will not continue to follow health regulations. She admitted that the guidelines are a burden but if they aren’t followed, the state could see a spike in cases and end up having to go backwards.
“I think the main thing here is to still apply social distancing measures when you can. It is really important that we follow those guidelines in terms of wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible. Definitely protecting those at high risk for severe disease. So, those over the age of 65 and others with medical conditions. It is going to be really important for those populations, specifically, stay home and for us who can go out, who aren’t at risk, to help them out in getting their needs met.”
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. Testing sites are set up at Sterling Urgent Care in Logan, North Cache Valley InstaCare in Hyde Park and the Bear River Clinic in Tremonton.