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Utah now has 78 coronavirus cases, but there are positive signs for the future

(Epidemiologist Angela Dunn, right, and an ASL interpreter, left, discussing the progress of the disease in Utah. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – Are there reasons to be optimistic about coronavirus cases in Utah?  Health officials say the number of cases is still on the rise, with 78 confirmed patients so far.  However, the spread is slowing down in other parts of the world and doctors in Utah see that as a positive sign.

Out of the confirmed cases, state residents make up 68 of those patients while visitors make up the rest.  Doctors say Salt Lake and Summit counties are bearing the brunt of that number.

State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn says Utah is still at the very beginning of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, so the number of confirmed cases will keep going up.  She was asked to estimate how long disruptions to daily life will continue, but, she says there’s no way to answer that, yet.

“Because it’s a novel disease, we really don’t have the ability to accurately predict how long all of this is going to last.  Based on other outbreaks in the past and other pandemics, we can expect it to last a few months,” Dunn says.

However, there are positive signs for the future.  The most notable reason to be optimistic is the drastic slowdown of the viral spread in China.

Dunn says, “I think they have them rolling in one every day or one every other day.  That means we can beat this.”

She believes the slowdown is proof of how effective social distancing can be.

“China implemented social distancing measures in the outbreak, very similar to what we’re doing, here.  That is a big reason why they started seeing a decrease in cases,” Dunn says.

Dunn is also encouraged by the clinical testing of anti-malaria drugs on COVID-19.  President Trump instructed the FDA to speed up the testing of two drugs which might later be used to treat coronavirus.  Dunn says the initial results are positive, but, the sample sizes are far too small to know how effective the drugs would be on a mass scale.

“It’s difficult to extrapolate that to large populations,” she says.

So far, more than 1,500 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Utah.



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