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Utah now has 78 COVID-19 cases as state school board suspends assessment tests

By Xoel Cardenas and Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Mar. 19, 2020 at 3:50 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 19, 2020 at 12:26 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The number of COVID-19 cases in Utah increased Thursday.

Utah Department of Health officials said in an email release there are now 68 confirmed cases of the disease in Utah residents, with 10 cases in visitors in the state. Over 1,500 people have been tested for the virus in the state so far.

A graphic on UDOH's website briefly said there were 79 cases, but state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn clarified Thursday there are 78 cases.

No new health districts in Utah reported cases of the disease in the last 24 hours, Dunn said.

A total of 1,526 Utahns have been tested for the disease, Dunn said, though that sum may not reflect the actual number of people tested. Private health labs do not yet have the infrastructure to report negative COVID-19 tests to UDOH, so there may be more tests that have been conducted but not reported, she said.

There is currently a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for healthcare workers in Utah, as well as a shortage of reagent materials needed to conduct tests for the disease, Dunn said.

She reiterated that the state of Utah is still early in the stages of its COVID-19 epidemic, and Utahns have an opportunity to slow down the spread of the virus with measures like social distancing, home isolation and good hand hygiene.

“We are at the very beginning of this epidemic,” Dunn said.

Here are the Utah health districts where COVID-19 cases are currently present, with a breakdown of cases between Utah residents and visitors:

  • Bear River Health District: 3 residents, 0 visitors
  • Davis County Health District: 6 residents, 0 visitors
  • Salt Lake County Health District: 29 residents, 2 visitors
  • Southwest Utah Health District: 1 resident, 0 visitors
  • Summit County Health District: 19 residents, 7 visitors
  • Tooele County Health District: 1 resident, 0 visitors
  • Utah County Health District: 2 residents, 1 visitor
  • Wasatch County Health District: 3 residents, 0 visitors
  • Weber-Morgan Health District: 4 residents, 0 visitors

Dunn said she is aware that a drug used for malaria treatment, hydroxychloroquine, has been tested as a possible treatment for COVID-19; however, it has been tested on a very small sample size, so it is difficult to know at this point if it would be effective for a larger population, she said.

Typically, people who contract a virus build up immunity to it right away, Dunn said; however, since the coronavirus is a new virus, health officials don't know yet if people who have already had the disease can get it again, she said.

Also Thursday, the Utah State Board of Education announced it will suspend all assessment testing statewide due to the epidemic, according to a press release. Those tests include RISE testing for students in grades 3-8 and Utah Aspire Plus testing for students in grades 9-10.

Some education requirements, such as day and hour requirements, transportation requirements and deadline extensions for some programs, will be waived. Those waivers are now in effect through June 30.

“We sought to strike the appropriate balance between the board’s oversight and accountability responsibilities, along with common-sense flexibility that LEAs need to support educators and families at this time,” board chair Mark Huntsman said in the release. “This is likely just the beginning. We’ll continue actively monitoring and responding to this situation as it evolves.”

More information is available at the Utah State Board of Education's coronavirus website.

On Wednesday, there were 53 confirmed cases in Utah residents and 10 cases in nonresidents, with 1,222 reported people tested.

For more information, go to coronavirus.utah.gov.

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

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Xoel Cardenas
Jacob Klopfenstein

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