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As COVID cases double, Dr. Dunn says Utah is in ‘acceleration phase’

FILE -- Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, waits to speak at the daily COVID-19 media briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 11, 2020. (Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has had an average of 300 new cases of COVID-19 cases a day for the past few weeks, double what had been recorded in the weeks prior. 

This spike had state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn and other health officials expressing concerns about how well Utah can handle the new caseload with flu season only a couple of months away. 

Dr. Dunn tells Utah lawmakers that we’re not flattening the curve.

“We are in the acceleration phase in this outbreak,” Dunn said. 

One of the reasons is people are going to work or hanging out in other large groups. While that has benefits, Dunn says it also makes it more difficult for health officials to track an outbreak. 

“When we were in the red phase, for example, each case had about three to five contacts. A case investigator would have to call three to five additional people. Now it’s between 20 and 30 contacts. The amount of time it takes to do a complete case investigation has increased exponentially,” Dunn said. 

Another complicating factor is that many vulnerable populations also cannot work from home, making them more likely to get a serious case of COVID-19.


Your questions about COVID-19 answered | KSL Coronavirus Q&A


Dr. Dunn asked lawmakers to make sure they have enough healthcare workers in Utah to do COVID-19 testing and tracing, as well as the ability to ensure everyone has enough personal protective equipment.  

While the state does know where COVID-19 is spreading the most, there is a concern that Utah will not get a handle on its cases–and thereby stretch hospital capacity even further–once flu season hits. 

“Flu season always stresses out our healthcare system. Now we’re going to have flu season on top of [COVID-19], so we really need to do everything we can right now to protect our healthcare capacity so that everybody can get the care they need whether it’s COVID-related or not in the fall,” Dunn said. 

Dr. Dunn said hospital bed capacity is all right for now. 

“[But intensive care unit] beds are starting to bump up against that in our urban areas. Specifically Salt Lake County, in terms of reaching 70% capacity overall, not just COVID-related,” Dunn said. 

She would also like to see a revamp of the public health infrastructure to focus more on prevention, especially in high-risk communities.

When asked about the economy, Dr. Dunn felt it was important to balance it with public health concerns. 

“We in public health know acutely the impact of a poor economy on the health of populations, potentially for generations. The link between poverty and health is strong, and that’s something we try to prevent as well,” Dunn said. 

 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses 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 Utah COVID-19 resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

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