SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah’s number of COVID-19 cases increased by 126 from Thursday, with four new reported deaths, health officials announced they now recommend anyone experiencing any one symptom of COVID-19 should get tested.
If anyone has a fever, coughing or shortness of breath, they should consult their healthcare provider and get tested for the disease, which is caused by the novel coronavirus, Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said.
The state now has the capacity to test people who are experiencing just one of those symptoms, she said.
“Testing is a cornerstone in our response efforts," Dunn said.
There have now been 40,762 people tested in Utah, and 5.2% have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the the health department.
Friday's totals give Utah 2,102 confirmed cases, with 183 hospitalizations and 17 total deaths from the disease. Previously, there were 1,976 cases in the state.
The new numbers indicate a 6.4% increase in positive cases since Thursday.
The total number of cases reported by the health department includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah’s outbreak began, including those who are infected now, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.
Utah officials discussed the current coronavirus situation in the state at the daily Utah Department of Health press conference on Friday afternoon. Watch the full replay of the event below.
The four people who died were all men over the age of 60, according to Dunn. Three were from Salt Lake County, and the fourth was from Utah County.
Of the three in Salt Lake County, two of the men who died were in long-term care facilities. They were in different facilities, and each facility is the site of a known outbreak of COVID-19 that is currently being investigated, Dunn said.
The other two men were both hospitalized prior to their deaths, she added.
Has Utah hit its peak?
Though some pandemic models have indicated Utah's COVID-19 outbreak may peak this week, Dunn would not say that is indeed the case.
Many models are useful, but they are rarely perfect, she said. Health officials look at various models and see what can be learned from them.
One thing most models indicate is that Utah's social distancing efforts are working to stop the spread of the virus, Dunn said.
The state is still seeing linear growth in new cases of COVID-19 and has not yet seen a large spike in cases. Officials are still preparing for a spike to happen and are ready for that worst-case scenario, Dunn added.
Utahns are still advised to practice social distancing and not to visit areas where it is not possible to keep a 6-foot distance between other people unless it is absolutely necessary, she said.
When should I wear a mask?
The state health department, in accordance with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends people wear cloth or homemade face masks when they visit places where social distancing is more difficult or not possible, Dunn said.
Masks will help people who are carrying the novel coronavirus but are asymptomatic or presymptomatic from spreading it to others, Dunn said. It may not help you from contracting the disease from someone else, however.
It's important to maintain physical and mental health while still observing social distancing, Dunn said. One way to do so is by getting outdoors, but people should be careful not to visit crowded areas outdoors and to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, she said.
“Outside is one of the safest places we can be," Dunn said.
Travel advisories instituted by Gov. Gary Herbert went into effect Friday morning, state Department of Public Safety officials said.
The advisories ask people who are coming into the state to make a declaration about the nature of their travel. This is so officials with the health department can follow up with travelers who may need healthcare, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson said in Friday's press conference.
Authorities also made some exemptions to the order Friday. People who won't be required to make a travel declaration include:
- Commercial airline employees coming through the Salt Lake City International Airport
- Commercial motor carrier and truck drivers
- Public safety personnel
- Active military personnel
- Healthcare providers
- Workers who live close to state borders and go back and forth across state lines
The first alerts for drivers coming into the state went out at 12:37 p.m. Friday, according to Department of Emergency Management spokesman Joe Dougherty. Authorities are trying to keep the alerts out of residential areas but are still working to fix bugs, he said.
Postcards with a QR code directing people to a website to fill out the travel declarations are also being distributed at the airport at terminals 1 and 2 and the international terminal, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason said.
As of Friday, officials are asking for voluntary compliance with the travel declaration order from people coming into the state, Anderson said.