Utah gov. announces adjustments to curb COVID-19 case spike

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Gov. Gary Herbert holds a press conference on Oct. 13 to announce a new plan to help stop the rise in cases in Utah. (Press conference screenshot)

Utah’s COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed higher than they’ve ever been in the past four weeks.

Because of this recent spike, Gov. Gary Herbert announced changes in the statewide plan to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Our case counts have hovered around 1,000 a day,” Herbert said in a Tuesday press conference. “Our percent positivity is now over 13% and, worst of all, our hospitals are getting overwhelmed.”

With a newly announced data driven index system, the Utah Department of Health will analyze three key data points for each county in Utah and categorize each county as a high, moderate or low transmission area based on that data every week.

The new system is based on a calculated amount of infection and transmission and provides people with actions to help slow the spread. It also empowers local health authorities and elected leaders to make unique decisions to improve conditions in their localities.

Utah’s epidemiologist Angela Dunn announced the three key data points: case rates, percent positivity and statewide ICU utilizations.

As of today the counties that are considered a high transmission area are: Cache, Garfield, Utah, Salt Lake, Juab and Wasatch.

Masks are required for areas of high transmission and strongly recommended and encouraged for areas of moderate and low transmission. Specific guidelines for areas in each transmission phase can be found on Utah’s coronavirus website.

The website will be updated every Thursday, where counties may move to a higher level of restriction based on data weekly, or a lower level every 14 days.

All counties in Utah listed in their levels of transmissions. (Screenshot from coronavirus.utah.gov)

Along with the new data driven index system, Rich Saunders, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, announced a directive that will be in place for two weeks, from Oct. 15 to Oct. 29.

“We’re issuing a directive to all persons living in moderate transmission areas to also wear masks in public places where social distancing is not feasible,” Saunders said.

The Utah Department of Health is also issuing a public health order requiring all people living in high and moderate transmission areas to limit social gatherings to 10 or less people, also in effect from Oct. 15 to Oct. 29.

“Utah’s outbreaks are spinning a little bit out of control,” Saunders said. “We need to do something right now.”

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