CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Unpublished White House Report Calls For More Restrictions In Utah Counties

Jul 17, 2020, 7:02 PM | Updated: 7:44 pm
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08:  White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speaks as U.S....
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speaks as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. and Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, listen during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. Vice President Pence and the task force members discussed the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic and the reopening of nation's schools in the Fall. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – An unpublished document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended 18 states, including Utah, revert to tighter restrictions in hotspot counties.

That 359-page report, dated Tuesday, July 14, was obtained by a reporter at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington D.C.

It said specifically “the trend in recent days is very concerning in Utah. If actions are taken early, there can be a dramatic decline in cases.”

“Scientific experts are confused about why this information isn’t posted publicly and regularly,” said Liz Whyte, the reporter with the Center for Public Integrity who obtained the unpublished document from a source.

She doesn’t know why the report was never released because the White House has not responded to her questions about it.

“They never handed it to reporters. They don’t post it publicly,” she said. “So, the Center for Public Integrity obtained it and is sharing it with Americans.”

The document categorized Utah as one of 18 states in the red zone. That means Utah and 17 other states had more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents last week. Utah actually had 140 cases per 100,000 residents last week.

According to the data from the White House document, Utah was in the yellow zone for case positivity with last week’s rate of 8.9 percent. States enter the report’s red zone at 10 percent.

The report characterized Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties as hotspot counties.

“They are asking hotspot counties to close down bars and restaurants, encouraging mask wearing,” said Whyte.

It also recommended gatherings of no more than 10 people.

Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties represent three-quarters of new Utah COVID-19 cases over the last three weeks.

“We’re seeing a lot of the same kind of lockdown type measures being encouraged in these hard-hit counties,” said Whyte.

The recommendations are tighter than Utah’s orange phase, but they do not reflect a complete return to lockdown.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s office responded with a statement: “The White House sends us regular reports on Utah’s COVID-19 status, including data and recommendations. The data seems to correspond well with our own data, and we appreciate their suggestions. Those recommendations generally track well with the actions our state and local health departments are already pursuing, though of course our actions are more targeted on the specific circumstances of our outbreaks.”

The Utah Department of Health provided this statement: “The White House Coronavirus Task Force has published weekly state-specific snapshots for several weeks now. The report provides a concise look at the current situation in Utah. We share these reports with our partners throughout the state, and they are just one of the many considerations we take into account when determining how the state can limit the spread of COVID-19.”

The state’s COVID-19 measures currently, however, are not as stringent as the recommendations in the document.

“It clearly reflects the insistence of the White House that states and localities lead the coronavirus response,” said Whyte. “But it’s also kind of a concession to those states who want clear guidance on what they should be doing and want to know what federal scientists think is best.”

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Unpublished White House Report Calls For More Restrictions In Utah Counties