SALT LAKE CITY — Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox participated in a virtual town hall Wednesday in which he reiterated to Utah’s young people that they need to do their part in flattening the COVID-19 curve and gave some insight on how this can be done.
“I know we all feel like we are invincible when we are younger, but we plead with young people to take this very seriously,” Cox, who leads the Utah COVID-19 Response Task Force, said to listeners. “We really need you all to step up because while it may not impact you seriously, you could certainly be the person that passes it on to someone who does have serious complications or loses their life.”
The town hall, hosted by the Emerging Leaders Initiative of Utah, was held online to comply with social distancing principles.
Cox said that millennials and Generation Z — those specifically targeted as the audience for the press conference — are just as susceptible to contracting COVID-19 as any other demographic. While there may be a difference in severity for younger individuals, that protection is negated if the person has an underlying health condition like heart disease or diabetes.
Even then, mortality rates among Generation Z and millennials are still four times higher than the common flu, Cox said.
“I’ve talked to young people who have been hospitalized because of this, it is not something you want to play around with,” he explained. “It is just devastating, and we still don’t know the long-term impacts.”
Cox also cautioned that younger generations can be the “perfect vectors for spreading this disease and killing others” because symptoms are often less serious than they would be for more at-risk people.
He urged Utahns to continue following guidelines issued by Gov. Gary Herbert for this reason.
When asked why Utah is one of the few states yet to issue a stay-at-home order, Cox said that Herbert and other experts are watching the situation closely.
Herbert’s “stay safe, stay home” directive has resulted in the closure of nonessential businesses and specifically asks Utahns to stay home whenever possible, exceptions being necessary trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and essential employees’ work.
More information on the directive can be found at coronavirus.utah.gov.
“It is a very strong directive and in some cases stronger than some of the orders we are seeing in other places,” Cox said. “Layered on top of that is an opportunity to work with the counties to put their own stay-at-home orders in place.”
Health departments in counties like Salt Lake, Summit, Davis, Utah and Wasatch have built upon Herbert’s directive, issuing their own stricter versions.
Today, Herbert tweeted that his conversation about Utah’s response with the nation’s top health official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was productive.
Cox said that while some people became upset when Fauci said every state should have a stay-at-home order, the physician commended Utah’s response to COVID-19 in their conversation.
Cox explained that the governor feels he’s done a good job striking a balance between those feeling there should be an order with enforcements built in for people to take it seriously, and those who push back against one.
That being said, officials review traffic patterns, hospitalization and infection rates every day.
If there are spikes “then the governor will look at doing something more draconian,” Cox said, explaining that if people can do their part so it won’t come to that point, we will “all be better off” and come out of this quicker.
“We made decisions early on so we could hopefully prevent some of the most extreme measures elsewhere,” Cox said, pointing to the state’s decision to limit mass gatherings of more than 100 people, and to close in-house dining before many other states did the same.
The number of confirmed cases in Utah rose to 1,846 as of Wednesday, according to the Utah Department of Health. The agency also reports that 158 individuals have needed hospitalization in the state and that 13 people have died from the virus.
The state has tested more than 36,116 people as of Wednesday.
Cox reiterated that people should not be interacting with those outside of their immediate household. He acknowledged that this crisis impacts countless Utahns both economically, financially, physically and emotionally.
Acknowledging that in the first three weeks of this pandemic he was not taking good care of himself, Cox encouraged listeners to reach out to those who may be isolated.
“This is a really hard time for many people who are social beings and are struggling right now — people who are being forgotten about, those who are shut-ins anyway and may be struggling right now,” Cox said. “Just think about the people in your life — your neighbors and others — who may need a note or a phone call, a FaceTime. Just something to connect. Doing so will help them, but will also help our own mental health.”