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Spenser Heaps, KSL file

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will enact new COVID-19 emergency order as Utah sees 461 new cases, 4 deaths

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Aug. 20, 2020 at 1:30 p.m. | Posted - Aug. 20, 2020 at 10:45 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has announced a new COVID-19 state of emergency declaration will take effect Thursday night.

Utah's current state of emergency order is set to expire Thursday evening, and legislators indicated there was not enough support to extend it. Herbert announced that a new emergency order will take its place once the current order expires.

“We're not out of the woods yet on this pandemic," he said.

Also on Thursday, Utah’s number of COVID-19 cases increased by 461 from Wednesday, with four more deaths reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.


Utah Gov. Gary Herbert addressed COVID-19 pandemic topics and other issues during a press conference on Thursday morning. He spoke as part of PBS Utah’s monthly news conference with the governor. Watch the replay of the event below.


New state of emergency order

Herbert did not say how long the new order will be in place, nor did he say whether he would be revisiting the issue each month to potentially renew the order. He said COVID-19 is unpredictable and it is impossible to know Utah's situation that far into the future.

Herbert pointed out that all 50 states, as well as the federal government, currently have emergency declarations in place, so Utah would be the only state not to have such an order in place if Utah's were to expire this evening.

Utah has been receiving money from the federal government for various coronavirus-related initiatives, Herbert said. Some of that money goes to National Guardsmen, who are assisting the state with contact tracing for COVID-19 cases. That program accounts for a $14 million bill that the federal government is helping Utah pay, the governor said.

Allowing the state's emergency declaration to expire could jeopardize Utah's chances of receiving federal money for such programs, Herbert added. Having a state of emergency declaration in place also allows the state to respond, make decisions, and act quickly, he said.

Most legislators agreed that they should let Herbert review the state's current emergency orders and decide which ones should be renewed, according to Utah Senate President Stuart Adams. Several other orders are currently in effect, including ones that mandate masks for all people entering Utah school buildings and government facilities.

Thursday, Herbert said his office will continue coordinating with legislators to make sure they are not blindsided by any policy changes.

"We recognize, and I think the Legislature recognizes, the need to act quickly," he said. "That's why we have emergency declarations."

New COVID-19 cases

The health department now estimates there are 8,237 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah.

The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 364 according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period is now 8.8%.

The new numbers indicate a 1% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 615,804 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 7.8% have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of tests conducted has increased by 5,442 as of Thursday, state data shows.

There are currently 139 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Utah, according to the health department. Of those, 62 are occupying intensive care unit, or ICU, beds across the state. About 66% of all ICU beds in the state are occupied as of Thursday, and about 53% of non-ICU beds are occupied, according to the health department.

Three of the deaths reported Thursday were Salt Lake County residents who were also residents of long-term care facilities. One was a woman who was over the age of 85, the second was a woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84, and the third was a man who was between the ages of 65 and 84.

The fourth death was a Utah County woman who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was a resident of a long-term care facility.

Thursday's totals give Utah 47,982 total confirmed cases, with 2,853 total hospitalizations and 381 total deaths from the disease. A total of 39,364 COVID-19 cases are now considered recovered, state data shows.

Methodology:

Test results now include data from PCR tests and antigen tests. Positive COVID-19 test results are reported to the health department immediately after they are confirmed, but negative test results may not be reported for 24 to 72 hours.

The total number of cases reported by the Utah Department of Health each day includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah's outbreak began, including those who are currently infected, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.

Recovered cases are defined as anyone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 three or more weeks ago and has not died.

Deaths reported by the state typically occurred two to seven days prior to when they are reported, according to the health department. Some deaths may be from even further back, especially if the person is from Utah but has died in another state.

The health department reports both confirmed and probable COVID-19 case deaths per the case definition outlined by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. The death counts are subject to change as case investigations are completed.

Data included in this story primarily reflects the state of Utah as a whole. For more localized data, visit your local health district's website.

Information is from the Utah Department of Health and coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts. For more information on how the Utah Department of Health compiles and reports COVID-19 data, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts and scroll down to the "Data Notes" section at the bottom of the page.

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