Salt Lake County extends COVID-19 public health emergency
SALT LAKE CITY – In its final meeting of the year, the Salt Lake County Council voted to extend the public health emergency that’s been in place since the start of the pandemic.
Keeping the declaration gives the county government access to federal dollars in their ongoing efforts to vaccinate and combat COVID-19. Some also noted the wisdom in keeping the emergency status in place, given the uncertain future of the Omicron variant in Utah.
“I think about the fear and uncertainty that we face,” said Mayor Jenny Wilson.
“We’ve come a long way. We’re still not there yet so I guess I have some hope for the future. I’m really proud of our community.”
Dr. Angela Dunn, the executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department told the council the county averages 441 cases per day right now. She said cases hit a plateau and may soon decline like the state’s overall case numbers.
She warned, “going into the holiday season and potentially a variant coming our way that’s definitely more transmissible, chances are our cases will start to increase again.”
71% of those 12 and older in the county are fully vaccinated. Dr. Dunn told the county council new data from South Africa showed waning immunity from the first two doses of the vaccine against the variant.
“It’s still protective against hospitalizations and death,” she said, “but it is expected that a boost dose will improve that vaccine efficacy against the variant. So more important now than ever to get the boost dose.”
COVID-19 cases are going down in Utah and headed that direction in Salt Lake County, but Dunn said hospitalizations are up.
“So, what that’s telling me is people who are getting infected aren’t getting tested,” she said.
Dr. Dunn also addressed home tests, which she said are the same as rapid tests. She said they are good for surveillance but she suggested going to a testing site if you have been exposed or have symptoms.
“Individual cases may not reflect the actual spread. Looking at hospitalizations is going to be ever more important.”
The extended public health emergency is extended until January 11, when the council is expected to revisit it.
Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing email@example.com.
The latest COVID-19 stories from KSL can be found here.
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.
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