SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket four days after Governor Gary Herbert placed Utah in a state of emergency. At a news conference Thursday both he and State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said we need more time to tell if the statewide mask order and gathering restrictions will be effective.

“We do need to give these measures time to have an impact on our case counts,” Dr. Dunn said. “But we do know that Covid continues to spread throughout the state, throughout all of our communities and all of our age groups.”

Gov. Herbert called Thursday’s record case count and positivity percentage “stunning” and “alarming”.

“The cause for alarm is because of the trend that’s taking place. More people are getting sick and consequently more people are going into the hospital for treatment,” he said. “Any time you have more than 400 people in our hospitals that have COVID-19, that’s the benchmark that causes us concern. We have about 468 in there today and so again we’re at the breaking point and ready to have some serious repercussions because of that challenge.”

Intensive Care Unit beds at Utah’s main hospitals are 87.5 percent full. Gov. Herbert said we’ll have a better idea of how the new restrictions are working by the time the emergency order expires on November 23rd, although it may very well be extended. 

Meanwhile, he’s hopeful that a COVID vaccine will be available before Christmas.

“I believe that in Utah at least in the next four to five weeks we will have a vaccine here that we will be able to give to those in some sort of a priority list to be developed. Those who are health care workers on the front lines will be treated. Those who are vulnerable in our populations will be treated,” Gov. Herbert said. “So we’re going to have the opportunity to see this happen and unfold here, sometime in December, certainly by the first of the year and that will continue to grow and expand until we have it for general distribution I believe sometime in the month of March, first of April.”

Governor Herbert also announced plans to greatly expand testing on college campuses in order to identify and isolate asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

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