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New Coronavirus Cases Plateau In Summit County — Once The Epicenter Of Utah's Pandemic

Photo of houses in Park City
Summit County has seen a decline in new COVID-19 cases, but health officials aren't sure that trend will continue as businesses reopen and there are fewer restrictions on the public.

In mid March, Summit County reported the first known case of COVID-19 via community spread. Soon after, its health department issued the state’s first stay-at-home order March 25. By then, the county’s peak tourism season was nearly over, and the order required all out-of-town visitors to leave by April 1. 

A couple days following the local stay-at-home order, Gov. Gary Herbert issued his “Stay safe, Stay home” directive, which further discouraged people from gathering in groups and going out in public.

Nursing Director Carolyn Rose said residents have taken public health policies seriously. She said that’s helped prevent any COVID-related deaths from happening in the county.

“Most people, especially the most vulnerable populations, are following the guidelines to stay at home or stay away from groups,” Rose said.

Rose had another theory about why the county hasn’t had any fatalities. Many of the state’s deaths have been patients in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. Rose said the county has only one facility like that.

“They have been doing an excellent job of maintaining who their visitors are, and they’re keeping a close eye on their staff,” she said.

Rose said the county is flattening out its transmission curve based on a decline in new cases, even though it has the second highest per capita case rate in the state, just behind San Juan County. But she said maintaining a decline in cases depends on what happens in the coming weeks, as businesses continue to reopen. 

As the state and local health departments have shifted to moderate risk, public health officials continue to encourage people — especially high-risk groups — to practice social distancing. 

“People are out and about more,” she said. “Even though they are still to be social distancing and wearing a mask, some people are not.”

While the number of new cases has slowed, the negative impacts to the area’s economy continues. A report from the Utah State Tax Commission shows a 32% drop in sales tax revenue in March, compared to the previous year. Organizations have canceled large events, like the Deer Valley concert series and Park Silly Sunday Market, due to county restrictions on mass gatherings. Both draw thousands of visitors to the area each summer.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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