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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Outbreaks In Long-term Care Facilities Cause COVID-19 Cases To Spike In Southwest Utah

A photo of the entrance to Dixie Regional Medical Center.
David Fuchs
The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths is increasing in Southwest Utah. The region’s health department spokesperson said it’s largely due to outbreaks at long-term care facilities. 

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has reported 362 cases of COVID-19 since Oct. 5 and the positivity rate has been 13.2% over that same time.

The health department’s spokesperson David Heaton said the area is seeing a “definite surge” in case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths. And he said it’s being driven by elderly people in long-term care facilities, with six of the area’s 11 deaths reported since Oct. 1 coming from these places.

“There are some definite outbreaks in care centers, we haven’t seen any patterns of outbreaks anywhere else that are of excessive concern at this point,” Heaton said.

There are currently two outbreaks at long-term care facilities according to the state health department’s coronavirus website. One in St. George has less than five active cases and another in Hurricane is experiencing at least five active cases. Heaton said the department can’t release more specific information at this time.

The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 has also been rising in the area — 297 since the beginning of the pandemic and 16 residents currently in the hospital. Intermountain Healthcare spokesperson Jess Gomez said he can’t comment about the situation at Dixie Regional Medical Center, which is part of the hospital system, but the overall increase is concerning.

“Unfortunately cases continue to rise. [Sunday] hospitalizations set a new record for the state of Utah,” Gomez said. “It’s definitely very concerning to us — we’re watching it very carefully, but we’re working to manage care for patients as best we can.”

Heaton said while there’s been more out-of-state visitors to Southwest Utah, they haven’t led to more cases because people are mainly outdoors, and he hopes it stays that way.

“We are concerned about large gatherings indoors for any length of time especially as it gets cooler if people aren’t taking precautions and so we’re still encouraging people to hang in there and keep steady as far as precautions go,” Heaton said.

Since early March, the department has reported 4,925 cases and 45 deaths in the region.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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