Coronavirus in Utah: Governor says state is prepared and actively monitoring illness

Laura Seitz, KSL

Coronavirus in Utah: Governor says state is prepared and actively monitoring illness

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News | Posted - Feb. 28, 2020 at 6:11 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah is bracing for possible cases of the coronavirus, but Gov. Gary Herbert reassured residents Thursday that health officials are prepared for a possible outbreak.

“We are in fact hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” he told reporters during his monthly press conference at PBS Utah.

“I know it is on everybody’s mind what is happening,” he said. “There is a little uncertainty out there.”

Former Utah governor and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt told Fox News on Thursday, “This is a time to inform, not to inflame.”

He said pandemics are a fact of biological life that occasionally happen, and being prepared is important.

“We need to be doing the same as we would to prepare for a big snowstorm or weather event,” Leavitt said, adding that families need to ensure they have food and medications to last any time they might need to stay home.

“We’re in a position today to be substantially better prepared,” he said. “If anyone thinks that the federal government, in the context of a pandemic, will ride to their rescue, they’re sadly mistaken. Because what’s unique about a pandemic is that it happens everywhere at the same time and that’s why community spread is so difficult.”

Leavitt said families, businesses and schools should follow the advice of their local health departments.

The Utah Department of Health is hosting a briefing on the coronavirus Thursday afternoon, and Herbert stressed he has confidence that the agency, in combination with local health departments, will be prepared should cases of the infectious virus arise in the state.

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So far, though, he emphasized, no case has been reported in Utah.

Herbert added that the statewide health surveillance system is monitoring for the virus, and the incident command system has been activated.

Health officials are in daily contact with national counterparts on what is happening with the potential pandemic, he said.

“We are actively monitoring the situation,” he said. “We know this is very infectious. It spreads very easily.”

So far, though, he emphasized, no case has been reported in Utah.

Herbert added that the statewide health surveillance system is monitoring for the virus, and the incident command system has been activated.

Health officials are in daily contact with national counterparts on what is happening with the potential pandemic, he said.

“We are actively monitoring the situation,” he said. “We know this is very infectious. It spreads very easily.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told KSL Newsradio on Thursday that he would have hoped the country would’ve “put aside a lot more face masks and gowns and booties, if you will, and goggles and so forth, for medical personnel than we have.”


We're not at a point now where people need to be panicked.

–Sen. Mitt Romney


He said more resources should be allocated to treat people and prevent spread.

Though, Romney said he would limit travel to countries like China, Japan and Italy, where coronavirus is more rampant, he would still go elsewhere around the world.

“We’re not at a point now where people need to be panicked,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot we don’t know” about the new and quickly spreading illness. While it hasn’t reached a state of national emergency, Romney said, “It’s inevitable it will come here with community transmission, but it doesn’t have to be something that shuts down schools and churches and so forth.”

He said the hospitality industry might be worst hit, if the virus hits harder in the U.S.

Just as the outbreak in 37 countries is rattling the stock market, which has suffered 10% losses this week so far, Herbert said the coronavirus may impact Utah’s economy negatively.

His office is already reviewing international trade missions to determine which of them, if any, need to be postponed, and said having ample funds in the state’s reserve account, called the Rainy Day Fund, will be a priority moving forward, he said.

It may be, too, that possible tax cuts may have to be put on hold given the uncertainty posed by the coronavirus, he added.

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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