SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A research study finds that shutdowns prevented about 60 million COVID-19 infections in the United States. And as the state continues to reopen, ABC4 News takes a look at the number of cases from the time the state entered the low-risk phase.  

In May, Governor Gary Herbert announced a majority of the state would move to the low-risk (yellow) phase of the state’s health and economic recovery plan on May 16th – stating if Utah handles things right, the state would not have a surge.

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“This is a great day. It’s an opportunity for us to move forward – little by little,” Herbert said on May 14th.

ABC4 News took a look at COVID-19 data from the Utah Department of Health, and in the 23 days following loosened restrictions, confirmed cases are up more than 1,800 people, compared to the 23 days before.

“Loosening restrictions does not mean that the risk of spread is decreasing,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn during Wednesday’s press briefing.

Dunn said that while the risk is not decreasing, it does mean Utahns need to take action to avoid unnecessary illness and death.

Since late May, the number of confirmed cases continues to trend upward of more than 200 per day, with the highest reported on Saturday, infecting 547 new Utahns.

“It’s really been alarming, the last week or so, but especially the last two or three days,” said Tom Hudachko, a Utah Department of Health official. “We haven’t seen case counts like this throughout the outbreak.”

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Without certain policies in place from the beginning of the pandemic, the study published in the scientific journal ‘Nature’ suggests 60 million more Americans could have been infected by the respiratory virus.

Some of those policies include travel restrictions, social distancing measures and stay-at-home lockdowns.

As Utah continues to fight against COVID-19, New Zealand health officials said they believe they have eradicated the virus, after the last known infected person has recovered.

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