Coronavirus And Utah: What You Need To Know | KUER 90.1

Coronavirus And Utah: What You Need To Know

19 hours ago

Updated 1:57 p.m. MDT 5/23/2020

Total Cases: 8,260 | Total Hospitalizations: 676 | Recovered 4,898 | Deaths: 97

Utah reported on Saturday 203 new cases of COVID-19, a 2.5% increase in total cases from the day before. That is the highest number of cases reported in one day since April 2, when there were also 203 cases.

The state also reported four new deaths on Saturday, and has tested 190,779 people.

The state’s seven day average rate of increase is under the 5% that the Utah Department of Health said is an indication that Utahn’s efforts are working to “flatten the curve.”

Utah’s Leads Together 3.0

Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled the state’s third version of its economic plan on May 20. It will focus on things like retraining some people who were laid off and fast tracking infrastructure projects.

Parts of the plan include addressing health disparities in minority communities. Officials said that means first learning the facts about these disparities in order to address the immediate needs of these populations. Next, comes finding ways to make sure people know about and follow public safety guidelines so they can stay engaged in the economy.

Shifting From Orange To Yellow

On May 16, most of Utah moved from the orange, moderate phase of pandemic response to the yellow, low-risk phase. As of May 23, Grand County, Salt Lake City, West Valley City and the towns of Bluff and Mexican Hat in San Juan County near the Navajo Nation are still in orange.

Guidelines based on coronavirus response color

Credit Renee Bright/KUER

For places in the yellow, people can gather in groups of up to 50 and team sports can resume with safety measures like temperature checks. Utahns are still encouraged to practice social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands frequently. 

Officials say high-risk individuals — like people over the age of 60 or with underlying conditions — should always take extra precautions to remain safe until there is a vaccine.

Utah Cases By Location


Navajo Nation And Minority Communities Among Hardest Hit

The Utah portion of the Navajo Nation is the hardest hit area per capita in the state. The Utah Department of Health reported 245 cases on Utah Navajo as of May 23. That’s an infection rate of 3,950 per 100,000 — 15 times greater than Utah’s overall rate. The Navajo Nation has extended its emergency declaration order through June 7. Tribal leaders have imposed a voluntary stay-at-home order, a mandatory nightly curfew and weekend lockdowns.

Data from the Utah Department of Health show people of color make up nearly 25% of the state’s population but almost half of its coronavirus cases. And the Utah Department of Workforce Services reported more than half of unemployment claims are from women

Read more: KUER’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

A newly recognized inflammatory syndrome in children could be from COVID-19 related complications, but Utah has not reported any cases of the disease yet. An official with University of Utah Health said the disease is very rare, but parents should still remain cautious. Children with the syndrome can have a fever and low blood pressure. 

As of Thursday, there have been 475 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in people under the age of 14. A detailed breakdown of the demographics of COVID-19 cases is available on the Utah Department of Health website.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 1,613,476 cases and 96,582 deaths in the United States.

Many Long-term Care Facilities See Cases

Utah has more than 300 long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes and assisted living locations. As of May 23, 115 of them have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Forty people living in these facilities have died and 219 residents have tested positive for the virus. In case of an outbreak at a facility, Utah’s epidemiologist said the state can use its mobile strike teams to assist. Six locations, all along the Wasatch Front, currently have at least five active cases.

Older people and those with underlying health conditions are considered at high risk of dying from COVID-19.

What do the shifting color levels mean?

On May 1, Utah moved from the red, high-risk phase of its pandemic response, to the orange, moderate phase. And about two weeks later, most of the state shifted to the yellow, low-risk phase. 

Each color — ranging from red to green — corresponds with levels of social restrictions placed on businesses and activities, with green being the new normal. As the colors shift, non-essential businesses can resume operations, but they must follow social distancing guidelines and other rules put forth by the state. Those can be found here and are a part of the “Utah Leads Together 2.0” plan. 

Utah’s epidemiologist Angela Dunn said health officials will use three metrics to determine how the state needs to adjust its pandemic response going forward. Those are:

  1. Making sure the healthcare system can handle a potential surge. 
  2. Ensuring the state has the capacity to do widespread testing. 
  3. Effective contact tracing.

How is Utah tracking the virus?

Utah launched the “Healthy Together” app to help the state gather information on where people may be contracting the virus and help them track it. The application uses the same questionnaire as “TestUtah” — an online survey that asks people about their symptoms and COVID-19 exposure. 

Users can opt to allow the app to track their location and receive updates from the Department of Health if they may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

What’s happening with schools and universities?

Utah’s K-12 public and charter schools’ are closed for the remainder of the school year. School buildings will stay open and provide lunch for students.

Universities across Utah cancelled in-person classes for the spring and summer semesters. The University of Utah, Weber State, Utah State and Brigham Young University moved their classes entirely online.

No announcements have been made regarding the 2020-2021 school year for Utah’s K-12 schools or higher education.

The state’s technical college campuses are closed until their regions fall under the yellow phase of the pandemic response. There are exceptions for online programs and for small groups of students who are nearing graduation. All in-person instruction and testing is by appointment only and follows current COVID-19 protocols. The colleges are working to prioritize which programs may resume in-person instruction.

What’s the economic impact on Utah so far? 

The number of new unemployment claims dropped again in the week of May 10-16 according to the Department of Workforce Services. More than 6,200 Utahns filed for new, traditional unemployment benefits, down 12% compared to the week before. There were a total of 101,389 people in the state who received payments for a total of $75.5 million in federal and state benefits.

An additional 2,600 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. That is the fund set up for gig and non-traditional workers. 

More than 6,500 Utahns stopped filing for benefits, which is an increase from the previous week. The Department of Workforce Services says these trends are encouraging and expects them to continue as the economy reopens and people return to work.

To prepare for falling tax revenues due to the pandemic, Utah legislators met May 13 to revise budgets. Subcommittees were asked to remove any added spending approved in the last general session and put forward new proposals that could mean cuts of an additional 10%.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s executive order which allows renters in Utah to defer rent payments and be protected from evictions expires May 15. Advocacy groups had called for an extension on the order, but in a press conference May 14, Herbert announced the original expiration would stand. He referred renters who need assistance to the state’s 211 hotline managed by United Ways of Utah.

Payments of the federal CARES Act started rolling out to 2,094 of Utah’s hospitals and healthcare providers on April 10. More than $185 million will be distributed in the state. This part of the CARES Act is meant to help keep the country’s health care system running financially. 

How are worship services affected?

On May 19, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced what they called a “careful, cautious reintegration of worship services.” It instructed local leaders to follow their government’s guidelines for reopening and said that in Phase I, Sunday worship services would be shorter and capped at 99 participants. Select temples in the United States, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Korea and Taiwan, have reopened for marriage ceremonies. Additional temples are scheduled to reopen May 25.

On May 7, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, which covers the state of Utah, announcedparishes may resume public masses as long as they follow recommended health guidelines. Catholic and parochial schools are closed and will provide remote instruction.

What’s allowed for outdoor recreation and sports?

Bryce Canyon National Park reopened May 6 with limited access and resources. Capitol Reef National Park partially reopened May 5 with limited day use and some overnight camping. Cedar Breaks National Monument’s scenic road also opened for the summer season.

On May 13, both Zion National Park and Dinosaur National Monument resumed limited operations. Zion is open to visitors during daylight hours only with only certain roads and trails available. At Dinosaur, roads and trails are open but there is limited access to restrooms and no drinking water is available. The park service cautions that visitors should be prepared to be self-sufficient.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has waived entrance fees for national parks that are open.

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are scheduled to resume roads, trails and restroom access on May 29.

Many of the top ski resorts in Utah including Alta, Brighton, Solitude and Deer Valley closed in mid-March. Park City Mountain, Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Snowbird have announced they will be closed for the remainder of the winter season.

The Utah Jazz were the first team to have players test positive. The NBA suspended its season indefinitely in early March.

Real Salt Lake’s schedule also came to halt after Major League Soccer suspended its season.