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Health officials warn against going to green risk phase after spike in COVID-19 cases

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn is one of many public health officials who are concerned about Utah moving to a green risk phase after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. (Photo: Kelli Pierce)

SALT LAKE CITY — Public health officials have warned state leaders not to designate Utah’s risk level as “green” following a spike in COVID-19 cases over the past seven days. 

Utah reported 295 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. It has averaged 200 new cases a day for the past week, the highest ever. 

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn is concerned. 

“This past week we’ve had a sharp spike in cases, and it’s not explained easily by a single outbreak or an increase in testing. This is a statewide trend,” Dr. Dunn said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday. 

Looser restrictions and green risk don’t mix

She believes looser restrictions have played a role in the increase in COVID-19 cases.

“We started loosening restrictions about three to four weeks ago, and we knew this would likely increase cases in Utah,” Dr. Dunn said. 

However, that may not be the only reason case counts are going up. 

“It’s not the simple act of loosening restrictions that causes cases to increase. It’s what we do in society and with our actions that can cause COVID-19 to spread more readily,” Dr. Dunn said. 

This includes people not wearing masks, not socially distancing themselves from others, and staying in large groups. 

Green risk doesn’t mean risk is over

Most people in Utah are still catching the virus at work, at home, or being in close quarters with someone they know.  Dr. Dunn said while it’s unclear that recent protests in the state helped cause the higher case count, she also reminded people that lowering the risk level does not mean the risk of getting infected is over. 

“This means we must continue to take actions as individuals to avoid unnecessary illness and death due to COVID-19 in Utah,” Dr. Dunn said.

Utah’s Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission voted unanimously yesterday to recommend that most of the state move into a “smart green” phase as early as this weekend. 

Utah also recorded four new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday: 

  • Male, Salt Lake County resident, older than 85, long-term care facility resident
  • Male, Salt Lake County resident, between 60-85, long-term care facility resident
  • Male, Salt Lake County resident, older than 85, long-term care facility resident
  • Male, Salt Lake County resident, between 18-60, hospitalized prior to death


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

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

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState 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