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Salt Lake County medical director: It’s irresponsible to be out in groups during outbreak

By Ladd Egan, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 16, 2020 at 7:11 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Even if you aren’t likely to get very sick from COVID-19, you should still practice social distancing to keep from infecting vulnerable populations, according to officials with the Salt Lake County Health Department.

“You really have to now think about us as the community,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, the department’s medical director. “I think everybody has to take these measures.”

Vitek said it’s irresponsible for residents to be out in groups or to be having close contact with others since we should assume that community spread is possible.

For people over 60 years old, the recommendation is to stay home as much as possible. If you must go out in public, try to do so during off-hours and avoid crowded places. This advice also applies to those with health conditions or compromised immune systems.

For younger, generally healthy people, the instructions are to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to have enough tests to test everybody,” Vitek said.

When it comes to testing, if you are mildly ill the advice and treatment will be the same whether or not it’s a laboratory-confirmed case.

“It’s not like they would diagnose you with COVID-19 and tell you we have medication or a vaccine — we don’t,” Vitek said. “We pretty much just have to isolate ourselves and take care of ourselves.”

More than 80% of those who catch COVID-19 will experience only mild symptoms, Vitek said.

“If you have the fever and cough and shortness of breath, you can assume you probably have it,” she added.

If you have the fever and cough and shortness of breath, you can assume you probably have it.

–Dr. Dagmar Vitek

For those who suffer more serious illness, Vitek said to first contact a medical provider over the phone for instructions.

Meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new recommendations that gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled over the next eight weeks.

“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said in a statement. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.”

The statement went on to say the recommendation does not apply to schools, colleges or businesses.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources


  • To help mitigate infectious transmission of COVID-19, health care officials advise anyone who thinks they might have the virus to first call their doctor before going to a hospital
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Cough or sneeze in your elbow or a tissue

Risk and symptoms

  • Utah is seeing a growing number of cases, state counts by county can be found here and global updates can be found here.
  • Infected patients typically have a fever, cough and shortness of breath

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Ladd Egan


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