On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Gary Herbert hosted a press conference regarding to the rising cases of COVID-19 in Utah. Governor Herbert stated that Utah is in its most dire episode in the pandemic. He also acknowledged the desire of all to get back to normal, though that is not of importance at this time.
“It doesn’t matter how tired we are,” the governor stated.
Governor Herbert remarked that Utah has been blessed with one of the lowest mortality rates in the country. However, with the dramatic increase, citizens are at risk. Over the last four weeks, the governor stated that infection rates and cases have continued to sky rocket to the highest that it has been. There has been over a 13% positivity rate and hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, he said.
It was stated that 15.8% of ICU beds are being used and there is 69.6% of ICU utilization. This leaves hospitals close to being unable to treat COVID-19 patients in critical care and those that are experiencing other immediate health issues. Governor Herbert stated that Utah is having one of the worst outbreaks in the country.
“This is unacceptable; you and your family deserve good health,” Governor Herbert stated. With this in mind, the governor announced a new game plan and adjustments.
With this new system, the Utah Department of Health will analyze three key data points every week. Based on the points, each county will be categorized as either high, moderate or low transmission areas. This will begin Thursday, Oct. 15.
The levels directly correspond to case rates, percent positivity and statewide ICU utilizations. For example, a high transmission categorization requires a seven-day percent positivity of greater than or equal to 13%, a total statewide ICU of utilization greater or equal to 72%, and more. Counties must have two of the three metrics for each category to be named in said category.
Furthermore, coronavirus.utah.gov will be updated each Thursday to list which county is in what category weekly.
The Southeast Utah Health Department updated its website on Monday with a plea for caution, stating that in the past two weeks, there has been three more individuals pass away due to complications from contracting coronavirus. The current surge in cases is being driven by individuals from ages 25 to 64. Grand County is averaging about three cases per day.
Continuing on information with the new system, from Thursday, Oct. 15 to Oct. 29, there is an all call, all hands request that will change the trajectory of the situation. While high counties are required to wear masks when in public, moderate counties are also requesting this. A public health order for high to moderate counties to limit casual social gatherings to 10 or fewer is also being called.
High risk counties as of this week are Cache, Garfield, Juab, Salt Lake, Utah and Wasatch. Moderate risk counties are Box Elder, Carbon, Davis, Iron, Grand, Millard, Morgan, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Tooele, Uintah, Washington and Weber. Low risk counties are down to only eight: Beaver, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Kane, Piute, Rich and Wayne.
The governor also announced that he is transitioning Utah from a state of emergency to a public health emergency.