SALT LAKE CITY — For the second day in a row, Cache County reported the biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases. The news came as officials announced details about a program to help restock shelves at local food pantries in northern Utah.
The Bear River Health Department’s Thursday Situation Report showed 22 new cases of the virus reported during the past 24-hours. Twenty one of the patients were between the ages of 18-60 and one was older than 60. None of the new cases have required hospitalization. The new numbers increase the total, cumulative number in northern Utah to 137. There have been a total of 111 cases in Cache County, 26 in Box Elder County and none in Rich County.
The 22 new cases were 10 percent of the 215 reported across the state by the Utah Department of Health. The new cases, compared to the number of tests received, represented a 1.8 percent growth increase.
BRHD spokesman Joshua Greer said the increase of virus cases is troubling but partially expected as restrictions are being lifted. Contact tracers have found most of the viruses have been transmitted through social and family exposure. Currently, none of the residents are having to be hospitalized.
During a press conference, Thursday morning at the state capitol, Utah Epidemiologist Angela Dunn explained that one of the reasons positive cases have increased was because more tests are being completed. The growth rate, the number of positive cases compared to tests done are decreasing.
“When we look at our cases,” said Dunn, “it is really important to not only look at the raw numbers but also look at the growth rate. Our growth rate has remained pretty steady, 1.8 percent over the past week and is actually a good sign. It’s a sign that we are plateauing. We are working hard to start seeing that decrease. I think at this point we are more focused on that growth rate.”
Thursday’s press conference was held as the UDOH also reported two new deaths throughout the state. The number of people requiring hospitalizations has also decreased in the past week.
Dunn said health officials are continuing to try and lower the state’s transmission rate, how many people are likely to get infected from one infected individual.
“Our statewide transmission rate has been around 1.1 to 1.2 for the past couple weeks. It does fluctuate from day to day. The goal is to get it less than one. That means we have control over this pandemic. So for everyone infected individual, less than one individual is being infected from them.”
Details about the new Farmers Feeding Utah program was also discussed. The initiative was launched as a partnership between the Utah Farm Bureau, Utah State University’s Hunger Solutions Institute, and the Department of Agriculture and Food.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said the project connects Utah farmers with those in need. The group has already supplied meat and flour to members of the Navajo Nation. It is now focusing on resupplying food pantries in Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties.
“The food pantries in these areas have seen increases of 20 to 30 percent in use of their services over the past couple months and they need help to continue feeding Utah families,” said Cox. “Their areas have a large number of farms in our state. (Farmers Feeding Utah) has set a campaign goal to raise $150,000 to be used to help supply the shelves of local food pantries and needy families. This is a lofty goal but I have no doubt that it is one we can reach.”
Businesses and individuals who are wishing to help can make a donation or volunteer at FarmersfeedingUtah.org. Similar initiatives are helping non-profit organizations.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he and other state officials are balancing the need to open the state’s economy while still preventing the spread of the virus. They are also working on protocols for classrooms to begin implementing before the next school year.
“There is going to be protocols in place for hand sanitizing, washing down desks, some social distancing and maybe the wearing of masks. It is yet to be determined but we are in the process of looking at that. We have some proposals that have been given to me and we are in the process of reviewing them to see if it is something we can support.”
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 2,731 cases reported and 82 deaths.