Health Care Leaders Call For Mandatory Masks As 867 New COVID-19 Cases Reported
Jul 10, 2020, 1:02 PM | Updated: 1:51 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Health care leaders from across the state on Friday held a press conference advocating for Utah to mandate wearing masks in public as the department of health reported a new surge in coronavirus cases, breaking the Beehive State’s previous single-day record.
Mark Briesacher, the chief physician executive at Intermountain Healthcare, said 867 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, nearly 150 more cases than the state’s previous single-day increase on July 7.
The rolling seven-day average is 620 cases per day, according to the Utah Department of Health, which is a weeklong average of 10% positive tests.
Physicians & clinical leaders from Utah's major health care systems address importance of mandatory masking requirements to reduce transmission of COVID-19
Posted by KSL 5 TV on Friday, July 10, 2020
UDOH reports two new deaths, which include a Washington County man between the ages of 65 – 84 who was hospitalized prior to death, and a Salt Lake County woman older than 85 who was a resident of a long-term care facility.
There have been a total of 28,223 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far and a total of 207 Utahns have lost their lives to the virus.
With the spike in new cases comes an increase in occupied hospital beds, a topic doctors spoke at length about during the online press conference.
Currently, 182 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 79 are in ICU beds. UDOH reports that ICU beds are now at 66.2% occupancy. Non-ICU beds in Utah hospitals are currently at 55.6% occupancy.
However, Briesacher said the numbers reported by the state do not accurately represent the situation in hospitals, where he said the state’s overall ICU occupancy rate is actually around 72%, and Intermountain Healthcare hospital ICU beds are now at 77% occupancy.
There are also 47 patients hospitalized as COVID-19 persons under investigation.
“I don’t think at this point we can avoid maximizing our hospital capacity,” said Arlen Jarrett, chief medical officer for Steward Health Care. “It’s clear we’re going to be maxing out our hospitals.”
“I think it[‘s too late to make that change,” he added. “We can’t wait until August.”
The doctors also noted that even if more beds were made available in overflow spaces or pop-up hospitals, it wouldn’t increase the amount of trained medical personnel to treat the patients.
“Beds don’t treat people. People treat people,” Briesacher said.
Make Masks Mandatory, Physicians Say
Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday announced that masks will be mandatory for students and teachers as schools reopen for the fall. However, he did not extend the mandate to all of Utah.
Infections disease specialist Eddie Stenehjem during Friday’s press conference said that if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state, then he does not believe it will be safe for students to return to school in the fall.
Officials with the Utah Hospital Association sent a letter to the state’s leaders earlier in the week asking them to make masks mandatory in an effort to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Herbert instead issued a challenge to Utah residents to wear masks in public, saying that he wants to give citizens a chance to do the right thing on their own. During a press conference Thursday, though, he did note that the state has the authority to mandate masks, but he wants residents to take personal responsibility.
The governor issued an executive order that mandates masks in all state facilities, including liquor stores. On Friday, he extended the order to July 24 at 11:59 p.m.
All the doctors agreed that Utahns can take a few very simple actions to slow the spread of the virus. First, practice good hand hygiene by washing hands often, especially before and after eating or after coming into contact with surfaces that are frequently touched. Second, stay home when sick and social distance when possible. Third, when social distancing is not an option, wear a cloth face covering.
Masks have been proven to slow the spread of the coronavirus from asymptomatic people who do not know they have COVID-19, doctors said.
“We all have the responsibility to do our individual part to help turn the tide of our ongoing spike in cases,” said state epidemiologist Angela Dunn. “Our hospitals need our cooperation and our high-risk populations need our cooperation.”
“I know we can turn this trend around,” she added, “and we can do it by practicing physical distancing, wearing masks, staying home and away from others when we are sick, and washing our hands regularly.”
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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.
How To Get Help
If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, go to TestingUtah.com to schedule a test, or contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth service through your healthcare providers.
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 email@example.com.