SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Thursday’s dramatic spike in Covid-19 cases is causing a great deal of alarm for Utah state leaders who held an emergency meeting of the Unified Command Response Team Thursday morning as the Health Department reported 911 new cases, the state’s highest one-day total yet.
After that meeting Governor Gary Herbert stepped in front of a camera and called the numbers a “red flag warning”.
“This is not a good news day,” the Governor said. “Today we have a significant and troubling concern with this tremendous spike we’ve had this past week with our case numbers, culminating with 911 today.”
State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said the increase of infections started with 15 to 24 year olds but has now shown up in all age groups. In one week our seven-day average of daily cases has jumped from 381 to 661 and our positivity rate grew from 9.1% to 11.9%.
“What makes this so alarming is that we have gotten to this peak of a seven-day rolling average of 661 new cases in one week,” Dr. Dunn said. “During the summer it took us six weeks to reach this level.”
Both Dr. Dunn and Governor Herbert spoke about the current hotspot of infections: Utah County.
“40% of our new cases in this past week are from Utah County but they only account for about 20% of our state’s population,” Dr. Dunn said. “There’s parts of Utah County that have infection rates of 1400 cases per 100,000 people. This is approximately six times greater than the state’s infection rate and we are on pace to match of exceed infection rates we have seen in the Navajo Nation and in New York City.”
Now the Governor is considering action, including going back to Orange Phase restrictions or issuing a statewide mask mandate.
“I don’t want to overreact but I don’t want to underreact,” he said. “I’m going to look at the data. We’re going to study this through the weekend and we’ll work with the local stakeholders and then we’ll make some decisions as for what we should do if anything going forward but mandating masks, dialing back the color code to more restriction from less restrictions, those are on the table for discussion.”
Governor Herbert said he wants to make Covid-19 testing available for anyone who wants it, even if they don’t have symptoms or a known exposure.