While earthquakes may have jumped to the top of many Utahns’ minds following Wednesday’s event, we are still in the middle of a pandemic, with governments trying to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. More testing, more health orders, and more anxiety. To help wrap up the week, KUER’s Caroline Ballard was joined by news editor Ross Terrell.
Caroline Ballard: We received the latest numbers from the Utah health department today [Friday] on the disease. What are you hearing?
Ross Terrell: The department has been holding daily briefings this week. And at the start of the week, we had 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases here in the state of Utah. But as of today, that number actually sits at 112. That's 102 residents and 10 visitors. That visitor number has been rather stagnant for a few days now, which you can expect with the amount of flights that have been canceled and ski resorts closing.
CB: What about testing? How many people are we really looking at there?
RT: So as we know, it's been kind of an issue getting these tests rolled out, we've heard about shortage of the test, the shortage of the reagent, which is a chemical that extracts the RNA of COVID-19. But here in the state, there have been more than 2,100 people who have been tested. Keep in mind, those are just state lab numbers. Private labs, they have to report positive cases, but some haven’t been reporting negative cases. So the sheer number of people that have been tested could be a lot higher.
CB: This is also the first full week of school dismissal. Walk us through the week in education.
RT: This week might look a lot different if you're a parent whose kids may have been kept home. Schools have set up two times in the day to deliver breakfast and lunch. Parents can drive up to the school and get a meal for their kids.
But also this week in higher education, a lot of universities and colleges called off their spring commencement. And that means for the senior class, it's very likely they won't get the chance to walk across the stage and get their diploma. And then for year-end standardized tests, those have been canceled by the State Board of Education, and the federal government called them off on Friday.
CB: I want to point out another first. This will be the first weekend with a number of these health orders and restrictions on gatherings in place. Can you tell us a little bit what that might look like?
RT: This might be the first time we actually see how COVID-19 is impacting social life. So there's been some confusion about health orders going out. The state recommends that any gatherings over 10 not happen. Then, Salt Lake County issued the health order that was tied to some time penalty. The governor has since said no, we're not looking to impose fines and penalties on people. These are just recommendations.
CB: Let's zoom out a little bit and take a look just kind of at the big picture. What other things has the pandemic impacted?
RT: There is an alcohol return policy for restaurants. They can return any alcohol they bought this month and get a refund. We're seeing the Census kind of have to deal with this, which they weren't prepared for, a lot of national parks saying “hey, visitors — don't come, it's time to shut it down.”
CB: And just to take us out here, Ross, it's been kind of a heavy week — have any good news for us?
RT: Yeah, good news. I got a couch. I just moved here a couple weeks ago, so if I am quarantined I will do so with a comfortable place to sit.
CB: So happy for you and your couch. We're all appreciating the little things.