SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert, along with physicians and school officials, addressed the state about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic Thursday. They continued urging people to follow coronavirus health guidelines while also allowing several areas to loosen restrictions.
Herbert said the Labor Day Holiday not only means the end of summer but also new challenges to prevent the spread of the virus among citizens.
“Not only do we start school, which has already happened in virtually every school district except for Salt Lake City that is open in some form, but it also means we are probably going to be doing more things indoors as the temperature cools down,” explained Herbert. “That creates more of a challenge for us as we move forward and try to make sure the infection rate stays where it is at or goes down.”
Thursday press conference was held as the Utah State Department of Health reported 504 new positive cases of the virus during the past 24 hours. There were also four more deaths confirmed throughout the state.
Utah State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said the rolling seven-day average had increased during the past week, from 366 to 394. The weekly average of positive cases compared to the number of tests administered had also gone up, from 8.7 to 9.4 percent.
“This is a modest increase,” explained Dunn. “We aren’t seeing anything specific to age groups or settings, causing this increase. What this does mean is right now we need to remain vigilant. These measures will also help protect us from the flu, as we enter flu season.”
During the press conference, Herbert granted Salt Lake City’s request to move into the yellow phase of the state’s coronavirus recovery plan. Sevier County’s request to move to the green phase was also granted.
Dr. Erik Christensen, the chief medical examiner with UDOH, spoke about the “conspiracy theory” of COVID-19 fatalities. He explained deaths are reported to his office investigators, who then determine how it occurred.
“Our investigators then take a history of events from the reporting party, including a review of the circumstances and events that led up to the decedent’s death,” said Christensen. “Investigators also obtain a review of their medical history and issues, a listing of any positive test results they have had and when those were. And information about exposures to other individuals with COVID.”
When COVID-19 is believed to be a cause of death but is later determined not to be the cause, Christensen says COVID-19 is removed from the death certificate. So far, this has happened in about 1 percent of deaths reported.
Herbert said the state is doing some good things, noting how Utah has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Also, hospitalization rates are down and less than 8 percent of hospital beds are being used by COVID patients.
“Again, we need to make sure that we are prudent, diligent, in doing what we know is going to help,” said Herbert. “Social distancing and wearing the mask become more important now as we go into the fall time of the year than ever before. It is certainly a sacrifice, but it is not too much to ask of all of us to do our part.”
Thursday’s press conference occurred hours before the Bear River Health Department reported 41 new cases in northern Utah, 39 in Cache County and 2 in Box Elder County. There are still three COVID patients currently hospitalized in Cache County. The increase in cases are partially due to an outbreak at the Cache County Jail.