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2nd Utah COVID-19 death reported as state jumps to 480 cases

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Mar. 27, 2020 at 10:50 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 27, 2020 at 10:51 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 480, and officials from the Utah Department of Health on Thursday confirmed the state's second death from the disease.

So far, 9,244 people have been tested for COVID-19, with 466 Utah residents and 14 visitors testing positive. That's a jump of 78 cases from Thursday's 388 Utah residents and 14 visitors. The rate of increase in cases is about 19%, according to Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.

"Our case increases on a daily basis continue to be steady here in Utah, and that's a good sign," Dunn said. "That means our social distancing measures and our public health measures are working currently."

She added that officials are expecting more positive cases of the disease as the capacity for testing increases. That can be a good thing, too, because if people know they have tested positive for the disease, they can take action to prevent spreading it to others, Dunn said.

Utah's second death

The second death was a woman from southwest Utah who died Thursday at a Salt Lake-area hospital, according to a news release from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.

She was an older adult but was under the age of 60, the news release said. The health department said she also had "significant underlying health conditions." The release did not include further information about the woman or her health conditions.

"We want to express our sympathy for this individual's family and friends," Southwest Utah Public Health Department officer Dr. David Blodgett said in the release. "We encourage our community to maintain social distancing in your daily activities and make the effort to protect our older or vulnerable residents."

3 health districts report first COVID-19 cases

Also Friday, the TriCounty Health Department — which includes Duchesne, Uintah and Daggett counties in eastern Utah — and San Juan County in southeast Utah reported their first COVID-19 cases.

The person diagnosed in San Juan County is a man under the age of 65 who is a resident of the county, according to a news release from the San Juan Public Health Department.

The person diagnosed in the TriCounty district is between the ages of 18 and 60, according to a Friday news release from the health department. The person is currently recovering at home and has not been hospitalized.

The person is a Uintah County resident, and officials believe they contracted the disease through community transmission after recently traveling to the Wasatch Front, the release states.

“While this is our first case, we do not anticipate it being our last. We are asking people not to panic but to remain vigilant regarding their personal hygiene, physical distancing, and staying home at the first sign of symptoms,” TriCounty health medical adviser Dr. Karl Breitenbach said in the release. “Minimizing travel, even within our community, will lower the risk to yourself and others.”

Health officials are currently contact-tracing for people and locations who were potentially exposed to the disease through the person who was infected, the news release said.

Late Friday evening, the Southeast Utah Health Department announced it had confirmed its first COVID-19 case, a woman between the age of 25-45. Preliminary evidence suggests the woman contracted the disease from contact with individuals outside of Utah.

This case is not included in the state’s total number for Friday but will be added in the coming days.

Utah COVID-19 numbers

Before Friday, San Juan County, TriCounty and Southeast Utah Health Department were three of the four Utah health districts that had yet to report a COVID-19 case. Central Utah health district still has not reported a case.

The number of cases UDOH reported Friday does not yet include the San Juan County case or the Southeast Utah Health Department cases. Here are the Utah health districts that have reported cases, according to UDOH. The cases include those currently infected, as well as people who have already recovered.

  • Bear River: 7 residents, 0 visitors
  • Davis County: 50 residents, 0 visitors
  • Salt Lake County: 218 residents, 3 visitors
  • Southwest Utah: 9 residents, 1 visitor
  • Summit County: 102 residents, 8 visitors
  • Tooele County: 5 residents, 0 visitors
  • TriCounty: 1 resident, 0 visitors
  • Utah County: 26 residents, 1 visitor
  • Wasatch County: 28 residents, 1 visitor
  • Weber-Morgan: 20 residents, 0 visitors

Just over 1,500 more people were tested for COVID-19 from Thursday to Friday. Health officials are still expecting a spike in testing as the state continues working to increase testing capacity to at least 3,000 tests per day, Dunn said.

A stay-home directive

Even with the increase in testing, only about 5% of people tested are found to have COVID-19, Dunn said. That is lower than in other states that have been hit harder, such as Colorado, where the positive test rate is 10-12%. There is currently a data lag in reporting the test results, so the number of tests the department of health reports actually reflect test results from three days before.

Dunn said so far there has not been a need for a higher level of enforcement for social distancing in Utah.

Later Friday, Gov. Gary Herbert issued a “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive asking Utahns to remain in their homes as much as possible.

Dunn discussed the current coronavirus situation in the state during the Utah Department of Health's daily press conference on Friday afternoon. Watch the full replay of the event below.

Jacob Klopfenstein

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