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Utah officials report first COVID-19 diagnosis at long-term care facility

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19 isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak arrived in Utah, health officials here say patients at a long-term care facility in Salt Lake County tested positive for coronavirus.

The Utah Department of Health and Salt Lake County Health Department said six out of seven symptomatic patients at the nursing home, which was not identified, tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 in a Utah long-term care facility

According to a release from health officials, the first patient from the facility entered the hospital on March 27, 2020, and another passed away on April 2, 2020. The patient who died was a woman over the age of 85, but no other details about her were available. Three other patients from the same facility required hospitalization. Additionally, two staff members tested positive for the virus.

The health departments say all remaining residents at the long-term care facility remain isolated in their rooms to avoid spreading COVID-19.

“Test results are pending on the remaining residents and those who test negative for COVID-19 will be transferred to another facility,” the news release stated. “As a result of the outbreak, the affected facility will now become a COVID-19 only facility. The small, 34 bed facility, will admit only COVID-19 patients who no longer require hospital-level care.”

What happens now?

Health officials say members of the Healthcare-Associated Infections Team from the state health department went in to help with the investigation at the facility and provide guidance for how to proceed.

“An important part of the public health response is ensuring the health and safety of vulnerable populations, such as those living in long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Allyn Nakashima, Healthcare-Associated Infections/Antibiotic Resistance (HAI/AR) Program Manager for the Utah Department of Health. “We’ve worked hard with our partners at local health departments to ensure these types of facilities are aware of the steps they can take to limit the spread of COVID-19 among residents.”

According to the news release, the facility will implement the following measures to avoid future spread and identify any additional cases:

  • Notification of possibly exposed hospice workers and facility staff to monitor closely for symptoms. If symptoms develop, they are to remain excluded from work and to immediately report symptoms to public health for testing as needed.
  • Provided training, signage, and guidance tools for staff.
  • Implement social distancing and prevention measures with residents and vendors.
  • Planning for additional testing and outbreak response if it becomes necessary.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States