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San Juan County reports six additional COVID-19 deaths

This April 23, 2020 photo shows an empty Interstate 163 in Oljato-Monument Valley, San Juan County, Utah, on the Navajo reservation. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Navajo Monument Vally Tribal Park is closed. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

BLANDING, Utah — San Juan County officials reported six additional COVID-19 deaths Tuesday. Three of the deaths came from the same long-term care facility. 

That brought San Juan County’s total to 17 since the pandemic began.

The numbers come as 10 new deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Utah, which includes the San Juan cases. However, the Utah Department of Health reported just 448 new cases of COVID-19, the first time in many days that the daily case count increase was under 500. 

Long-term care facility continues to fight outbreak

Three men over the age of 84, all residents of Four Corners Regional Care Center, represent the latest victims of an outbreak tied to the Blanding facility. As of this weekend, the outbreak that began there in June included 50 confirmed cases as reported by the Deseret News

The three other deaths reported today by San Juan County Public Health involved hospitalized patients who died in May, June, and July. Director Kirk Berge says they were missing medical information when they learned of the deaths, leading to the delay in reporting. 

Director Berge was also a little surprised at the outbreak because the county had so few cases outside of the Navajo Nation. 

Berge says part of the reason the COVID-19 numbers were so low for so long is because they had a strong contact tracing program for the long-term care facilities. 

“We would do immediate interventions [after someone tested positive], talked to their spouse about their risks, encourage them to quarantine,” Berge says. 

He also says they had been consistently getting personal protective equipment from the state. 

Education was another factor keeping COVID-19 cases low for so long, in Berge’s opinion. 

“We’re trying to get everyone valid, factual information so they can understand their risks,” Berge says. 

However, the health department is trying to track where the original infection at the long-term care facility came from. 

Berge also addressed the other three deaths reported out of San Juan County today, saying those people had passed away in other states after originally becoming infected in Utah. The county was not able to confirm those deaths were due to COVID-19 until now. 

Berge says it is common for people in the county to travel to get medical care. 

San Juan officials urge COVID-19 precautions

In a release, San Juan County health officials urged residents to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

“We remind all county residents to maintain physical distancing (6 feet) as often as possible, to wear a mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained, and to stay home if you’re sick,” the release said. 

San Juan Public Health said two of the three nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 were Native American; the third was not. Navajo country has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, and a significant chunk of San Juan County is Navajo reservation land. 


Statewide numbers show a slight decrease

Tuesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 448 new cases of COVID-19 statewide. It was the first time in many days the daily increase was under 500. 

State officials said labs across the state performed 6,186 new tests for COVID-19, with a rolling seven day average for “positive” results at 10.2%. 

176 people are currently hospitalized because of COVID-19 in Utah. So far, the state has reported a total of 226 COVID-19 deaths, including the ten from today. 

State officials estimate about 18,111 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began have now recovered. 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, 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
  • Get a flu shot.

Local 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