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State health experts concerned about rising COVID-19 cases

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, Utah — Some state health experts are expressing concern about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Utah. A number that has surged since May 27; twelve days after most of the state moved to yellow.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Dr. Emily Spivak, epidemiologist with U of U Health, says it’s hard to imagine things getting better, before they get worse.

“One thing to keep in mind, and we say this repeatedly, is that the hospitalization [numbers] are a lagging indicator,” says Spivak. “We would expect an increase of hospitalizations to lag from this sudden surge in about ten to twelve days from now.”

Governor Gary Herbert recently responded to a memo from state epidemiologist Dr. Anglea Dunn, which warns that Utah is in an acceleration phase. Herbert shared concern in the rise of cases, but said there are no plans to shut down the state’s economy.

An unwillingness to change course could be bad news for everyone, according to Spivak.

“The numbers [will] keep doing what they are doing,” she says. “I suspect they will without any sort of intervention.”

Mandate masks?

It begs the question whether there are any actions short of a statewide shutdown the government could take to slow down the case rate. Spivak thinks mandating mask wearing is a logical first idea. She says most people have given up the practice and she tends to get “strange looks” while wearing her face covering in public.

“You know, I want to say to people, I’m not wearing this mask for myself,” she explains. “I’m wearing this mask for you, because I have empathy for you.”