SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – 21 states, including neighboring Nevada and New Mexico, now have statewide mask mandates but so far Utah does not.
Salt Lake, Summit, and Grand Counties and the city of Springdale have their own mask orders but except for those places, state facilities, and now schools, wearing a mask in public is still optional for the rest of the state.
During an online news conference on Friday, a group of leading healthcare professionals explained why they believe Governor Gary Herbert should issue a mask order for the entire state to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“It feels as though that we are headed for a disaster,” Steward Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arlen Jarrett said. “It’s very clear that if we stay on this same path we are going to maximize our hospitals’ capacity very soon.”
Dr. Thomas Miller, the Chief Medical Officer at University of Utah Health, agreed.
“Right now it’s not sustainable for our hospital systems within the next few weeks if we continue on this trajectory,” Dr. Miller stated. “It will be an issue where we’re overrun.”
Dr. Mark Briesacher, Intermountain Healthcare’s Chief Executive Physician, also weighed in on the surge of coronavirus cases.
“Unlike a bus accident or a train accident where we can we can send patients to other hospitals, we foresee a future where that ability will be very much impaired,” Dr. Briesacher said. “Because each of us will be experiencing a growth of patients in our hospitals, especially in our Intensive Care Units.”
These physicians say a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to control the spread is for Utah to join the states which already have a mandatory mask order, especially after the World Health Organization issued a new report that the coronavirus can be airborne, hanging on invisible clouds of tiny droplets.
“There has been reports that show what’s called aerosol transmission,” Intermountain Infectious Diseases Physician Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said. “This is where the virus lingers in the air a little bit longer. In order for transmission to occur like this, you really have to have specific environments, you need to have enclosed spaces, long durations of time and have a group of people or an infected person doing things that really generates airborne viruses, so singing, for example, has been shown to generate these things.”
Another ominous warning from Friday’s news conference: doctors say unless we see a drop in our case numbers it will not be safe to send children back to school next month.