State epidemiologist warns Utah faces ‘complete shutdown’ due to surge in coronavirus cases

Coronavirus Updates

Governor says he shares concern but has no plans to shut down economy

Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist from the Utah Department of Health, speaks during the daily COVID-19 briefing at the Utah State Capitol Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A state public health official shared a memo on the status of the COVID-19 outbreak in Utah expressing concern about a surge in new cases.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn warned state and local leaders that with the surge in new cases, the situation is “quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown.”

The state entered the yellow phase of its COVID-19 response on May 15 and the surge in new cases began about 12 days later. According to data from state labs, testing for the virus has plateaued, so the surge in new cases cannot be attributed to an increase in testing.

Case rates in week ending in 5/15/20 compared to week ending in 6/18/20.

“This might be our last chance for course correction,” Dunn wrote in memo dated June 19.

The following day, the state reported the largest single-day number of new virus cases for the third consecutive day. Dunn suggested several ways the state can decrease cases and keep the economy open.

Dunn said if the state does not reach rolling 7-day average of 200 cases per day by July 1, officials need to move the entire state back to the orange.

“This will send the message to Utahns that this outbreak continues to be a serious problem, and state leadership is committed to saving lives and preventing a complete economic shutdown,” said Dunn.

Dunn also encourages the state to put a pause on any loosening restrictions until July 1 and mandate face coverings, either by government or business enforcement.

Governor Gary Herbert said he shares the concern about increased spread of the virus in the state, but he has no plans to shut the economy. He said the memo was prepared “specifically to help frame key issues for this week’s leadership deliberations about how to address the surge in cases. Dr. Dunn will be a part of those consultations, and her analysis will be front and center in our meetings.”

Governor Herbert emphasized, “Our plan will only be as successful as the willingness of people to protect themselves and their loved ones from the spread of the virus by following our common sense guidelines for social distancing, good hand hygiene and especially the use of face coverings.”

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