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Utah now up to 52 cases of COVID-19, but state is at 'a great point' to prevent spread

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Mar. 17, 2020 at 2:49 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 17, 2020 at 12:44 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — State and local health officials said Tuesday there are now a total of 42 confirmed cases of the disease affecting Utah residents, with another 10 cases in visitors in the state.

Bear River Health District announced its first case of the disease Tuesday. The person is a male Utah resident under the age of 60 who has been hospitalized, Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The person is believed to have been exposed to another case of the disease in Salt Lake County, according to a news release from the Bear River Health Department. Health officials are still investigating the case.

New cases

Wasatch County

Another new case was announced Tuesday in Wasatch County, which is that county’s second case of the disease. The person is a Utah resident between the ages of 18 and 35, according to a Wasatch County Health Department news release.

On Monday, Wasatch County officials announced that a student at Wasatch High School had tested positive for the disease. The new case officials announced Tuesday is not related to the Wasatch High School case, but it has been linked to a Summit County case, the news release said.

Utah County

The Utah County Health District also announced its first case in a resident of the county on Tuesday. The county now has one case in a resident and one case in a nonresident.

The resident diagnosed with COVID-19 in Utah County is a male over the age of 18 and has not been hospitalized, a press release said. Officials believe his positive test is the result of local transmission in the community, according to the release.

He went to work for one day while he was symptomatic, according to the release. Everyone who potentially may have been exposed to the disease through him has been notified and they have been asked to quarantine at home.

Ballet West

Also Tuesday, two dancers for Utah-based Ballet West tested positive for COVID-19, the company announced. The two dancers had recently returned to Salt Lake City from a trip on the East Coast, according to the company. They had been traveling out of the state since March 1.

The dancers did not have any contact with other Ballet West dancers, students or staff since they returned to Utah. They are now self-quarantining, the company said.

'At a great point'

Prior to Tuesday's updates, there were 29 cases in Utah residents and 10 cases in nonresidents.

Dunn discussed the current coronavirus situation in Utah at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Watch the full replay of the event below.

Though there has been a steady increase in the number of cases for the past several days, Dunn said the data indicate Utah may still be one step ahead of the disease. Utah is currently “relatively low and early in the curve of (the) epidemic” in terms of how many COVID-19 cases are present.

“We’re at a great point right now in Utah,” Dunn said.

Utahns have an opportunity to stop the spread of the disease by socially distancing as local, state and federal officials have advised, she added. Home isolation and quarantining of people who have tested positive for the disease will also help limit the spread significantly.

People who are showing symptoms are more likely to spread the disease than those who are asymptomatic, Dunn said. Those who are coughing or sneezing have higher amounts of the virus in their bodies and are therefore more likely to spread it.

However, officials do expect the disease to continue spreading, she said. Numbers will continue to go up as more people are tested for the virus, health officials say.

As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 900 people had been tested for COVID-19 in Utah, between public health labs and private companies, such as ARUP, who are working with the state to administer tests. So far, about 5.5% of those people have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Dunn.

That percentage of positive tests is lower than other states that have been hit harder by the disease, Dunn said. It's a further indicator that Utah is still at the beginning of its epidemic and has an opportunity to limit the spread of the disease, she said.

"We have an opportunity to lessen the burden of COVID-19 here in Utah," Dunn said.

For more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.

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