COVID-19 cases rise, striking Utah and the rest of United States

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Day after day, more and more COVID-19 cases are reported across the country and here in Utah. the numbers are now causing alarm. According to a national tracking website, 29 states have now seen a significant increase in virus cases, most coming as states try to get their economies moving again.

The graph shows  Utah smack in the middle of coronavirus transmission problems.  As of the writing of this article, the State is number 13 in COVID-19 transmission.

RT.live Graph from June 25th 2020

The cause is now pointing to the reopening of states, and people not being as careful with masks, social distancing and hygiene. Departments of health across the nation are urging people to wear masks and to be mindful of social distancing and hygiene practices.

Race, Ethnicity, Hispanic, Latino

Governor Herbert has made masks mandatory in State Government facilities.

The rise in cases caused the stock market to fall on Wednesday morning.

According to an article posted in the New York Times, local governments are scrambling to shift and slow down their re-opening sequences. But there is confusion happening as people move from State to State and the rules are different. In Maine, Kansas, and Idaho, establishments are shutting back down as the cases explode.

Dr. Anthony Faucci the nation’s leading infectious disease expert told Congress the diseases is not under control.

“The virus is not going to disappear,”

Dr. Anthony Fauci

So, what’s happened here in Utah?

According to the national tracking provided by rt.live low transmission rates in Utah happened only from March 27th through April 21st. This was shown as when the virus had a transmission rate less than 1.0.  The State of Utah does not rely on rt.live for official data. There are differences. ABC4 News asked the Utah Department of Health tough questions about the rise in numbers. Tom Hudachko from the UDOH office helped find the answers.

Here are the questions and the state’s answers:

1. RTt.live is showing Utah was only below 1.0 from March 27th  to April 21st.  Cases started increasing the week of April 21st and continued to do so until the 30th.  At no time since we re-opened on April 30th has Utah been less than 1.0.   Is this true?

“We do not use RT Live for official purposes. We use a different measure, and according to our measure we were below 1.0 for a few days in early May and then again for a few days in mid-May.

Utah COVID-19 cases by date, from coronavirus.utah.gov

2. Now that we are in a second wave, how long do we stay above a 1.0 transmission rate until we face an exponential growth danger?

“I don’t have a solid answer for this. We are experiencing significant caseload growth, but it is not approaching exponential growth.”

Utah Cases the last 7 days from coronavirus.utah.gov

Trying to manage the information, and doing the right thing with the virus is not an easy thing. Utah Governor Gary Herbert explained there are conflicting scientific reports that have not made the job any easier.

FILE – In this April 15, 2020, file photo, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wears a mask during a news conference at Salt Lake International Airport in Salt Lake City. Utah’s Republican governor says on Monday, June 22, 2020 he will not shut down the economy even though he shares some of the concerns raised in a memo by the state’s epidemiologist who warned a “complete shutdown” might be imminent if the state can’t stop a prolonged spike of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The Utah Department of Health also sent us some information for everyone to keep in mind concerning different data sets people might see reported online. Including our use of the RT.live information. Tom Hudachko told us:

“As far as the difference between RT Live and how we determine transmission ratio, RT Live uses total positive cases over a set period of time. We use hospitalized cases as a proxy measure for positive cases, also over a set period of time. We feel there is more stability in using hospitalized cases, as hospitalizations tend to be a more solid measure and are not subject to some of the variables positive cases are subject to (availability of testing, lag time in reporting results, fluctuation of testing numbers from day to day, etc…).”

The best thing to remember is yes the numbers of people testing positive for the virus are going up. In order to protect yourself remember even though the economy is open practicing safe techniques to curb transmission like wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing can help us try to keep the virus under control in our community.

Tracy Smith
Tracy T. Smith is an award winning content producer/storyteller. He has a passionate interest in all things narrative and loves writing, photography, cinematography and visual storytelling.

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