CACHE COUNTY – The Bear River Health Department has officially weighed into the ongoing dispute between the Cache County Council and state public health officials over the county’s coronavirus threat level.
That friendly advice, delivered by Dr. Edward Redd of the BRHD on June 23, was an unqualified recommendation that Cache County “avoid moving to a (threat level) color … that results in reduced social and economic restrictions during an acceleration phase of the (coronavirus) outbreak.”
The county’s threat level has become a bone of contention with Utah officials since members of the county council voted June 9 to request authorization to move from the statewide Yellow/Low threat level to a less restrictive Green/Normal status.
Since then, Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order on June 19 dropping 10 rural counties to the Green/Normal status, but Cache County was not among them.
State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn justified the Utah Health Department’s rejection of Cache County’s request by citing the area’s continuing spike in positive coronavirus cases.
But Redd’s presentation to members of the Cache County Council came one day after BRHD reported just 23 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the three-county Bear River Health District, one of the lowest daily totals in three weeks.
By contrast, the state reported a dramatic seven-day average of 471 new positives each day for the past week, the highest average of cases in Utah during the more than three months of the pandemic.
In fact, Dunn issued a memo June 19 recommending that Herbert re-impose Orange/Moderate threat level restrictions on businesses and group gatherings unless Utah lowers its weekly average of positive cases to 200 per day by July 1.
In a candid aside, Redd confessed to council members that he is personally not in favor of Utah’s system of color-coded threat levels. His concern is that the general public will misinterpret a declaration of a Green/Normal threat level to mean that it’s safe to forget common sense precautions to avoid COVID-19 infection.
Redd emphasized that the health district and the county share the same goals, namely to keep the local economy open, protect residents who are especially vulnerable to infection and prevent regional health facilities from becoming overloaded.
To help achieve those goals, he added, BRHD officials are suggesting several common sense recommendations that should be followed regardless of the declared threat level. Those suggestions include:
- That residents of all ages wear face masks in all public areas
- That residents should maintain physical distance of 6 feet from others both indoors and outdoors
- That individuals in high-risk populations should voluntarily practice additional physical distancing whenever possible
- That residents should habitually wash their hands and disinfect public surfaces
- That people who feel ill should self-isolate
- That people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but are not yet showing symptoms should be quarantined
- That residents should be screened for symptoms of illness in the workplace and at public gatherings
- That people of all ages should avoid participating in large group gatherings, especially indoors