Health official confirms spike in COVID-19 cases happening statewide

Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist from the Utah Department of Health, speaks during the COVID-19 pandemic press briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s top health official warned there is an increase in the spread of COVID-19 happening throughout the state. The caution came as officials reported the second highest daily increase in positive cases since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn was very direct during a press conference Wednesday at the state capitol. She warned that the state is seeing its largest surge in virus cases and citizens need to take precautions.

“This past week we’ve had a sharp spike in cases and it is not explained easily by a single outbreak or increase in testing,” said Dunn. “This is a statewide trend.”

The press conference occurred as the Bear River Health Department reported 43 new cases of the virus during the past 24-hours, 1 in Box Elder County and 42 in Cache County. Thirty-four of the patients were between the ages of 18-60, six were under 18, and three were over 60. Minorities continue to see the largest percentage of cases with 41 percent being Hispanic or Latino.

Dunn explained that there is a false belief that since the state loosened restrictions weeks ago, the threat of catching the virus has decreased. She emphasized that it is more important than ever to maintain social distancing, wear a face covering, stay home if experiencing any signs of illness, and follow quarantine guidelines if necessary.

Sign language interpreters Trenton Marsh, left and Clay Anderson interpret Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist from the Utah Department of Health, during the COVID-19 pandemic press briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

“We have seen an increase of cases since loosening restrictions. Loosening restrictions does not mean that the risk of spread is decreasing. This means that we must continue to take actions as individuals, to avoid unnecessary illness and death due to COVID-19 in Utah.”

Wednesday’s press conference was held as the Utah Department of Health confirmed 295 new virus cases, the largest one-day total aside from the record 332 reported May 28. The numbers showed a total of 10,497 cases within the state. Four more deaths were reported, increasing the total number of fatalities to 117. It is also estimated that 6,501 patients have recovered.

Dunn said health officials are very concerned about the recent trend. She warned that the numbers could continue to increase.

“We continue to see the majority of our cases being exposed through household members. The increase through community spread is starting to jump a little bit with the loosening up of restrictions. The vast majority of our outbreaks are happening in workplaces. So what is really increasing the cases of COVID in Utah are similar to what is happening across the country: people being in close contact with each other, indoors for a prolonged period of time. That environment is really conducive for the spread of COVID-19.”

The state press conference occurred as Angie’s Restaurant announced that it will remain closed. A message on the restaurant’s Facebook page said they are still waiting for test results for their 80 employees. The tests were conducted after one of their staff members contracted the virus.

Dunn said there are currently 108 patients currently hospitalized throughout the state. That number is expected to increase in the next week due to the current surge of cases.

“Hospitalization is a lagging metrics. So, typically somebody who has been ill with COVID-19 could be hospitalized about a week to 10-days later. We have consistently maintained about an eight percent hospitalization rate. We can expect that this increase in cases will result in an increase of hospitalizations in about a week. So it is really important for us to see the leading metric in cases and take action accordingly, to prevent overwhelming our hospitals.”

The Idaho Department of Health reports there have been a total of 2,933 cases reported and 83 deaths. Seven cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. No cases have been reported in Bear Lake or Oneida counties.

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