SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said the state is doing “very well,” even as health officials reported one of the largest number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The news came during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the state capital.
Herbert revealed a new revision to his recovery plan, called Utah Leads Together 3.0. It outlines additional emphasis toward minorities and those considered in the high-risk category.
“Utah Leads Together 3.0 does not mince any words about the overall economic challenge we have faced and are facing still today,” said Herbert. “There is good news out there and reason to be optimistic and hopeful. I think version 3.0 offers a bold vision of what we can do to accelerate our economic opportunities as we go forward.”
Wednesday’s press conference was held after the Utah Department of Health confirmed 192 new virus cases, a 2.6 percent growth increase. The numbers showed a total of 7,710 cases within the state, resulting in 631 hospitalizations throughout the outbreak. It is also estimated that 4,423 patients have recovered. Two more deaths were reported, increasing the total number of fatalities to 90.
Herbert expressed optimism about the state’s economy, noting that several businesses had recently announced they were expanding their operations in the state, creating around 3,600 new jobs. He also noted that Utah and Salt Lake City had recently been named in multiple reports, as being in the best position to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Even in these dire circumstances, we see the fundamental foundation we have of economic prosperity, opportunity, and our free market system is still alive and well. Those fundamentals put us in a place for a good recovery. I am bold enough to predict and I know we’ll have numbers coming out Friday so we’ll find out if my prediction is true, I have a sense that our unemployment rate will be lower than the national average. I think we will be pleased to see in comparison that we are doing much better economically than most states in America.”
Wednesday’s increase in virus cases throughout the state were also seen in northern Utah as well. The Bear River Health Department reported eight new cases in Cache County (seven patients between the ages of 18-60 and one older than 60). None of the new cases have been hospitalized. The new numbers increase the total, cumulative number in northern Utah to 97. There are 72 in Cache County, 25 in Box Elder County and none in Rich County.
Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn explained that high-risk individuals are anyone over the age of 65, or are residents living in a long-term care facility, or have a serious underlying medical condition, including being immunocompromised. She said it is the responsibility of everyone to protect them.
“Actions that we should all be taking include wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible, staying home when you are ill, using really good hand hygiene, and even helping those high-risk individuals be able to stay safe and healthy,” said Dunn. “This could include going to the grocery store for them, picking up their medication or bringing them a meal.”
Of the 90 reported deaths from the virus, 94 percent were those considered high-risk. The average age was 73 and 79 percent had at least one pre-existing medical condition.
Dunn said it is too early to predict when Utah will be able to move to a green/no-risk category. Officials are continuing to see spikes in the number of cases throughout the state.
“In the recent weeks we’ve been going between a little bit of a plateau and then some instability in terms of increases and decreases over the past several days. We are working with each jurisdiction to identify where they are specifically, so that we can work with the specific local health districts on policies related to that geography rather than having one blanket approach that may not work for every jurisdiction.”
The Idaho Department of Health continues to report no positive cases of the virus in Franklin, Bear Lake or Oneida counties. There have been a total of 2,476 cases reported and 77 deaths.