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Utah officials urge caution over lowering COVID-19 risk levels

The Utah Health Department provides new numbers every day detailing new cases of COVID-19. But the state's dashboard offers a deeper look into what the numbers mean.

SALT LAKE CITY – Some portions of Utah are lowering their COVID-19 risk levels, but state officials say we’re nowhere near being ready to bring most of the state from “yellow to green.”  They say recent jumps in infection rates have forced them to pause moving into the low-risk phase of their plan.

Officials in Kane County asked the state to allow them to move into the green or “new normal” risk category and representatives from the Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force say they’re comfortable with that decision, based on the data they’ve seen from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.  Also, Mexican Hat and Bluff will come down from moderate-risk to low-risk.

However, spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases and rates of infections have doctors worried. “The percent of positive tests [before Memorial Day] was hovering around 4% to 4.5%,” said state epidemiologist Angela Dunn.

“In the two weeks since we’ve seen the trend increase to 7% for a weekly average and then 10% positive for the last week.”

At the beginning of June, Utah saw between 400 and 500 new cases every day according to Dunn.  In the past few days, those numbers have stabilized, somewhat.

“When you’re seeing that plateau, it just means the rate of increase has been consistent.  What we want to see is a decline in the growth rate every single day.  We haven’t had the chance to experience that, yet, in Utah,” Dunn said.

Impact of protests on case count

So far, there isn’t any data that shows how much of an impact recent protests have had on the spread of the virus. That’s something the Utah Department of Health will watch, closely.

“It definitely can vary, day to day,” Dunn said. ” We’re going to look forward to really watching the trends over the next two weeks.”

Dunn says she’s heard distressing news about how Utahns are behaving when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.  She says she’s heard reports of people that are too relaxed about health recommendations. She says too many people aren’t wearing masks or taking social distancing seriously.

“These individual behaviors are essential for us to be able to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect those at highest risk,” Dunn said.

Along with public health, Gov. Gary Herbert said the state must also be concerned about the public’s well-being.  He says current data shows fewer Utahns are applying for unemployment insurance, although new numbers are expected to come out next week. 

And he says he knows the state will see a large cut in state revenue due to the pandemic.  So he’s calling for a special legislative session at the end of next week to deal with this budget shortfall.


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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