Utah extends isolation directive through April; deaths remain at 13 as COVID-19 cases near 2,000
Intermountain Healthcare launches free emotional relief hotline
SALT LAKE CITY — The statewide directive to stay safe, stay home was extended to May 1 on Thursday.
“We have to stay at it. Any slip slows us down and it’s important that we continue to move forward,” Salt Lake County Jenny Wilson said during the county’s weekly briefing on the pandemic. She extended the county restrictions a couple hours before Gov. Gary Herbert announced his state directive would continue through the end of the month.
No new deaths were reported Thursday by the Utah Department of Health. Another 130 positives were confirmed for COVID-19, bringing the state total to 1,976. Thirteen people have died of the novel coronavirus in Utah, state data shows.
State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said the state seems to be maintaining a 5% infection rate, even as more people are tested. She said the state has the capacity to test up to 5,000 each day and that people in the private sector have used connections to get the necessary supplies for testing to Utah. Thursday’s numbers show 38,373 have been tested.
“We are fortunate in our state to be able to offer that to anybody who has symptoms,” she said.
Gov. Gary Herbert extended his stay home directive through the end of the month, with plans to address the end of the school year sometime next week. He also asked Utahns to join together in prayer and fasting on Friday.
“Let’s all join together in a united effort to ask for the blessings of heaven to come upon us,” he said. “As we pray, and I believe in the efficacy of prayer, we have a lot of needs, certainly the pandemic is at the top of the list ... in spite of the challenges we face, we have a lot to be grateful for.”
Herbert has not implemented a stay-at-home order, but emphasized he expects people to follow his statewide stay safe, stay home directive.
“And guess what? They are,” he said, adding that Utah is seeing better results from its actions than other states are reporting.
“We’re doing well in our urgency phase,” Herbert said. “I think stabilization is close around the corner.”
The governor also asked all Utahns to help keep grocery store and other retail employees stay safe by wearing masks while shopping.
Dunn said that wearing masks or face coverings will help to slow the spread of the virus, also helping people who have come in contact with it but are not showing symptoms from passing it to others.
She said the state saw a 7% growth rate from Wednesday to Thursday.
Salt Lake County has recorded 935 confirmed cases of COVID-19. But without social distancing measures that were implemented weeks ago, there might have been more than 2,200 at this time, David Schuld, intelligence section chief for Salt Lake County COVID-19 response, said in a presentation Thursday morning.
The men’s resource center, located at 3380 S. 1000 West, in South Salt Lake, had its first confirmed case of the disease on Wednesday, prompting quick action to move potentially impacted individuals from the facility. Wilson said at least 24 people have been moved to a county-operated quarantine facility.
Staff, she said, have worked to disinfect the room where the initial patient was staying and the facility is not currently accepting new clients.
“We knew that with the aggressive nature of this virus that we would face this,” Wilson said, adding that she intends to maintain transparency “as we work through these difficult times.”
The county is working on plans to gradually lift restrictions once it is deemed safe to do so, said Gary Edwards, director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.
He said anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, including fever, coughing or shortness of breath, should be tested.
“Testing is now available and we don’t seem to ever max out the number of tests that could be available on any given day,” Edwards said. The good news, he said, is that even with more testing being done, the positivity rate stays about the same.
“What this means is that the virus is not spreading faster, but we are able to identify more positive cases because there are more tests available,” he said.
Edwards said tracing efforts have been successful in identifying and isolating potentially infected people since January, even before a first case was confirmed in the county.
He said everyone should be covering their faces with a mask or cloth whenever they go out for essentials, including the 20- to 40-year-old population, which is still showing more positive COVID-19 cases than Edwards said is expected.
“We need this age group to please do their part,” he said. “Let’s all continue to make a concerted effort the next two weeks, so we can continue to beat this thing down.”
The coronavirus hotline, operated by medical professionals with the state health department, took its 50,000th call on Wednesday, Dunn said, as she commended the work the operators are doing to provide correct information on the virus to the public of Utah.
In addition to the state hotline for questions regarding coronavirus and its resulting infection of COVID-19, Intermountain Healthcare on Thursday announced a new and free hotline to assist Utahns with mental well-being issues.
The novelty and unpredictability of the virus as well as the related instructions to isolate can create and exacerbate stress, said Mikelle Moore, senior vice president of community health at Intermountain. She said the service was pulled together in four days to help anyone who might need someone to talk to.
“Staying mentally healthy during this unusual time is important,” Moore said.
The emotional relief hotline is available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and can be reached by calling 833-442-2211.
The breakdown of Utah COVID-19 cases by health district as of Thursday:
- Salt Lake County, 935; 83 hospitalized
- Summit County, 289; 24 hospitalized
- Utah County, 272; 17 hospitalized
- Davis County, 170; 15 hospitalized
- Wasatch County, 88; 5 hospitalized
- Weber-Morgan, 85; 6 hospitalized
- Southwest Utah, 48; 7 hospitalized
- Bear River, 41; 6 hospitalized
- Tooele County, 24; 2 hospitalized
- San Juan County, 6; 2 hospitalized
- Central Utah, 6; 1 hospitalized
- Southeast Utah, 4; 0 hospitalized
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 8; 0 hospitalized
Correction: An earlier version included L. Douglas James, Utah State University’s former Utah Water Research Lab director, among the state’s deaths. He did not die in Utah.