ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – The Utah Department of Health is confirming COVID-19 outbreaks at two long-term care facilities in St. George. The Wentworth at the Meadows has more than five COVID-19 cases and St. George Rehabilitation has less than five cases, according to officials.

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department confirmed a ninth death in the 5-county district was from an individual in a long-term care facility who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and had underlying health conditions.

The 152nd death for the state was announced Thursday. There are a total of 15,839 positive cases of the virus in the state.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn will speak virtually with media outlets in Southern Utah at 12:00 p.m. Friday, when additional information regarding the facilities’ outbreaks will be confirmed.

Southwest Utah is experiencing a continued surge in coronavirus cases, particularly in the most populated Washington and Iron counties, reporting 23 current hospitalizations and four deaths this week.

In addition to the death of a long-term care facility resident, deaths reported this week included two males over the age of 50 who died on June 12, and autopsy results also revealed the virus played a role in the death of a Garfield county man under the age of 50 who passed in mid-May.

As of Thursday, public health officials are reporting 919 total confirmed cases in Southwest Utah, including:

  • 30 new cases
  • 668 total recovered (40 new)
  • 23 currently hospitalized
  • 9 deaths
  • 16,544 tests performed (as of last report received on 6/18)
  • Washington County: 716 (27 new)
  • Iron County: 194 (3 new)
  • Kane County: 4
  • Beaver County: 1
  • Garfield County: 4

Public officials are pushing for the entire 5-county region to lessen restrictions further. Garfield and Beaver counties, which have reported four and one cases respectively, have submitted a request for ‘green’ and are expecting a response from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert by the end of the week, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. If approved, they would join Kane county, the first in the state to head to what public health officials are labeling a “new normal.”

“Green isn’t back to normal or just pretend like the virus isn’t here,” SWUPHD spokesperson David Heaton said. “It still has strong guidelines in place for social distancing and protecting the vulnerable.”

Calling adherence to public health guidance a “mixed bag” in southwestern Utah, Heaton tells ABC4 News it’s very easy to understand why residents are becoming exhausted or frustrated with the guidelines. He stressed that the phased reopening of the state is not based on fear or political beliefs, but driven by data.

“Those again are based on transmission rates, case counts, hospitalizations, and death rates,” Heaton said.

The 5-county district is still seeing fewer COVID-19 cases relative to the region’s percentage of the population, but officials say cases are continuing to rise and ask that the public prepares to social distance and protect the most vulnerable groups through the fall and winter.

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