SALT LAKE CITY — The number of cases of COVID-19 is starting to plateau in Utah, and that pleases the state’s top coronavirus doctor. But the autumn season draws ever closer, and with it, flu season and perhaps a second wave of the virus.
Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss how the state is doing with its battle against the coronavirus.
“You set a deadline in a memo to state leaders to get down to 200 cases [per day] by July 1 or we need to go back to ‘orange.’ Well, we’re a week past that deadline and [cases are] still spiking. Do we need to go back to ‘orange?'” Dave asked.
“We clearly have not met that mark,” Dunn said. “The good news is we are starting to see a plateau. It is a higher plateau with cases around 500 to 550 per day. But it is a good sign to see that plateau. We need to start seeing that decrease. And we know how to do it. We do it by wearing a face covering when we’re out in public, staying home when we’re sick and practicing physical distancing when possible.”
You are part of the solution
“What’s your plan for getting us out of this pandemic?” Debbie asked.
Dunn said the plan is to continue contact tracing, testing everyone who needs a test, wearing face coverings and physical distancing.
“Do you support mandating masks?” Dave asked.
“That is definitely a governor decision, and he has a strong favor toward local control,” Dunn said. “But he’s been really strong and both his messaging regarding masks and also as a strong personal example. He wears a mask himself, and I think we should all take that personal responsibility to help curb this epidemic.
“We are all part of the solution, and I think that’s a good thing. As individuals can save lives by wearing face coverings out in public,” she said. “. . . We should take pride in that and do it as a matter of protecting our loved ones in our community.”
Are kids safe going back to school?
Debbie mentioned that the Jordan School District approved its plan to bring students back to class in the fall. They will be in school Mondays through Thursdays and will give the school a deep cleaning on Fridays.
“Is that a good enough plan because I’m not even hearing that facemasks will be required or enforced in some of these schools? Are the plans you hear about going far enough to protect our children?” Debbie asked.
Dunn said school districts and the State Board of Education have engaged with infectious-disease experts in their planning. She added that bringing kids back to school is so important for the students and for the economy.
“We need parents to get out there and be able to go back to work as well,” Dunn said.
“Are you comfortable sending your kids to schools?” Dave asked.
“Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been in touch with my kids’ school, and they have a plan in place to protect the kids, the staff and the teachers,” Dunn said, adding that her younger child has been going to daycare throughout the pandemic and that she is confident in the precautions taken to protect the children there.
“This is not the time to send your kid to school with a mild cough or a runny nose,” she said. “Stay home with your kid if they have any mild illness at all.”
Dunn emphasized that it’s important to educate the teachers on what symptoms of illness to look for in students and others.
Pleased with the COVID-19 plateau
Debbie asked if a spike in cases is expected after the July 4th holiday.
Dunn said the state saw a surge in cases after the Memorial Day holiday but she hoped that the public heeded the warning issued before July 4th about wearing facemasks and avoiding public gatherings so another spike doesn’t occur.
“We knew once we started opening things up that cases would spike. I’m sure you were prepared for that. Did it spike even more than you were expecting or does this fall within the models you had planned for?” Dave asked.
“The thing about models is they’re all wrong, and some are useful,” Dunn said. “We are very pleased with the [COVID-19] plateau that we are seeing right now. And that means people out in Utah are taking responsibility [for] physical distancing and wearing facemasks, so it’s working. What we’re urging the public to do is continue these efforts.”
Despite the COVID-19 plateau, this virus is new
Debbie said she read on KSL Sports that Jazz center Rudy Gobert still hasn’t regained his sense of smell after his bout with COVID-19 which began on March 11.
“How long are these symptoms lingering?” Debbie asked.
Dunn said some patients have lost their sense of taste and smell for several months.
“But what we do know is that symptom does not means they’re infectious,” she said.
“Can you give us any idea of what you’re preparing for with a [possible] second wave [of the coronavirus]?” Dave asked.
Dunn said COVID-19 is a new virus “so we don’t know what to expect.” She said a decline in cases was anticipated during the summertime.
“But here we are in July and seeing our biggest peaks in Utah,” Dunn said.
She said scientists, physicians and public health officials are concerned about coronavirus resurging in the fall and spreading more rapidly during flu season when hospitals are already strained with patients.
“Everybody needs to get a flu shot if they’re able to get one,” Dunn stressed.
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.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707