Dunn: Utah needs 'large-scale behavior change' as record 676 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths reported

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials said Friday there are 676 new cases of COVID-19 in the state with two new deaths. The number of cases reported Friday breaks the record for most new cases reported in a day; the previous record of 643 cases was set just last weekend.

"For the second time in a week, we are announcing our highest daily case count total. These cases affect all Utah residents," said Dr. Angela Dunn, the state's epidemiologist, in a statement. "They have the potential to threaten our economy, and our ability to ensure people can receive the care they need in our hospitals.

"Each one of these cases represents a household that will now be required to quarantine. This means parents will be unable to go to work and children will be unable to see their friends. Each one of these cases inches us closer to maxing out our hospital capacity," she added. "If this happens, some Utahns who need hospital care may not be able to get it. And each one of these cases poses a clear and significant danger to somebody who falls into a high-risk category."

The two latest deaths reported were a Weber County man between 64-84 years old and a Salt Lake County man over the age of 85. Both were residents of long-term care facilities.

Utah has now surpassed the 20,000-mark in total number of cases since the first case was reported on March 6. Friday's totals give Utah 20,050 total confirmed cases, with 1,321 total hospitalizations and 166 total deaths from the disease. Previously, there were 19,374 cases in the state and 1,290 hospitalizations.

State health officials said the number of hospitalizations reported increased by 31 and there are currently 174 Utahns hospitalized due to the coronavirus. Of those 174, 80 have been placed in intensive care units.

The new numbers indicate a 3.5% increase in total positive cases since Thursday. Of the 317,568 tests conducted in Utah so far, 6.3% were positive for COVID-19.

There's been a sharp increase of testing over the past two days with more than 13,000 new tests conducted during that span. The seven-day average positive rate remained at 12% for the second straight day.

Mask mandates

Two days after announcing it, Gov. Gary Herbert signed an executive order Friday evening that made masks mandatory in all state governmental entity, that's a part of a state department, board, commission, institution, agency or higher education institution. The order goes into effect at 8 a.m. Monday and will last at least until 11:59 p.m. July 10.

On Thursday, Utah leaders approved Salt Lake and Summit counties' requests to begin to impose mask requirements in an effort to reduce COVID-19 spread. Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said Friday that the counties' requirement will go into effect at midnight.

When it does, masks will be required at all public gatherings, indoor or out, when social distancing can't be maintained and while waiting outside or inside retail and other public locations, such as bars and restaurants, until seated.

Masks will not be required for people who are outdoors and properly social distanced; on a person with a health condition "exacerbated by a face covering," on children under the age of 2; when wearing a face covering would "prevent the performance of the essential functions of (a) person's job or work"; and in circumstances not "reasonably conductive" to wear one, such as swimming or "engaging in strenuous physical activity."

The Summit County Council voted unanimously Friday afternoon to also make masks mandatory beginning at midnight. The order, which was approved to last through at least Sept. 1, is punishable by an infraction, councilmembers said. They added that it’s a message to show that’s what’s expected in the county.

Prior to the vote, Summit County Council Chair Doug Clyde said masks were the only “tool in the toolbox” left in preventing another economic shutdown in Summit County, which he said would be devastating for Summit County’s economy.

“It’s going to be a dramatic and life-changing event for the residents of Summit County,” he said.

Councilmember Roger Armstrong added that it was important for tourism, a key industry for the county, to let people outside of Utah know they aren't being "reckless" with COVID-19 and that they're taking measures as numbers rise.

Utah has reported at least 200 new cases every day since May 28, and the number of cases has exploded since Memorial Day.

In her statement, Dunn said Utah as a whole needs to make a "large-scale behavior change" to reverse the trend.

"Everyone, whether it's required in your county or not, needs to be wearing a mask in order to help protect those around you," she said. "Everyone should be practicing physical distancing, staying home if they're sick and washing their hands regularly."

Some business chains in Utah are also making decisions regarding masks. For example, Harmons announced Friday that all its Salt Lake County locations will require shoppers to wear masks starting Saturday, as the new county order kicks in.

In addition, its remaining locations in Utah will also require masks to be worn beginning July 5.

"As the pandemic surges on, it has become clear that we need to do even more to protect our associates’ health," said Bob Harmon, chairman of the grocery chain that has 18 Utah locations, in a statement. "From the beginning, we have followed advice from the Utah Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That recommendation includes wearing masks in public places and when social distancing is not possible."

Carnival company workers test positive

At least nine workers for Utah-based City of Fun Carnival tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the shutdown of the event at Uintah County Western Park in Vernal where they were working at Thursday, according to a communication manager for the county.

TriCounty Health Department officer Jordan Mathis said individuals who attended the event before the shutdown should actively monitor for symptoms and to get tested if they begin exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms over the next few days. He added that people should practice social distancing and wear a face covering while in public or at work and avoid contact with high-risk individuals.

County officials said City of Fun Carnival reached out to Western Park on June 11 to find out if the facility was available and interested in hosting an event. The facility agreed on the condition that the event followed local health department and government requirements, according to a spokesperson for the county.

An event plan was proposed to the TriCounty Health Department on June 17 since Uintah County was in Utah's "yellow phase"; the county was moved to green two days later and the event was to follow guidelines from the June 17 proposal, officials said. Some of the protocols for the event included face coverings for employees, social distancing in lines and sanitation of all rides.

On Thursday, Utah Department of Health officials contacted the TriCounty Health Department to tell them that at least nine carnival employees had come back with positive COVID-19 tests after they were tested in American Fork last week. Those positive tests were reported Thursday, officials said, and the local health department immediately shut down the event.

County officials said other events planned at the facility in the coming days are still scheduled to happen. They also reminded people to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

"There are risks associated with many of the things we do every day," Uintah County Commission Chair Brad Horrocks said, in a statement. "It is up to individuals to personally decide what amount of risk is acceptable for them or take steps to reduce the risks."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.


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