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Dr. Dunn: ‘We Have Increased Spread Of COVID-19 In Utah’

Jun 3, 2020, 9:16 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said a statewide spike in COVID-19 cases is a real concern and did not recommend any changes to Utah’s current yellow risk status.

In contrast, a legislative commission that monitors the impact of COVID-19 recommends most of Utah can move to a “smart green” phase that would let nearly all businesses reopen.

Those conflicting recommendations set up Gov. Gary Herbert for a tough decision before the end of the week.

The “smart green” phase is a modified yellow phase, not a return to pre-pandemic conditions. That phase would allow nearly all Utah businesses to open with social distancing and mask requirements.

Dunn said it’s too soon for that move.

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“Based on the data we have seen in the past week, we don’t recommend any jurisdictions in the state going to green,” she said.

The Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission interpreted the data differently and voted Tuesday to recommend adopting modified yellow and “smart green” risk phases without ending the state of emergency.

“We need to be respectful of the virus,” said Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, who is a member of that commission. “So, we need to continue social distancing and sanitizing and doing all of those things that we’ve been taught.” 

The state’s hospitals have not been overwhelmed and Utah’s death rate is relatively low, he said.

The commission believed most Utahns can transition to lower risk guidelines, except for people in high-risk categories, who should remain in the red phase.

“We need to protect people’s health and allow our economy to continue to function,” said Adams. “If we protect that medically frail population we can do both.” 

The commission believed the state can react to hotspots if they flare up and change phases as needed.

However, Dunn said the recent spike in COVID-19 cases this week will likely lead to increased hospitalizations next week.

That creates a difficult decision for the governor.

“Both of those recommendations go to the governor’s office,” Dunn said. “He will determine what policy he wants to set forth.”

In a statement, Herbert’s office said he will review the recommendations as they “work to identify the best path forward to keep Utahns safe and informed.”

Adams said he has concerns about the virus and the economy, despite the path Utah takes.

“I think we have worries about going forward, and we have worries about not going forward,” he said.

The current public health orders are slated to expire Friday. We will likely hear from the governor before then.

Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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Dr. Dunn: ‘We Have Increased Spread Of COVID-19 In Utah’