IN FOCUS Discussion: July’s COVID pandemic update

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In the past month, the COVID-19 pandemic is seemingly making a comeback as the Delta variant dominates the majority of new cases in the U.S. A new internal report from the CDC warns that the “war has changed” as the mutation acts almost like a different virus. It’s as contagious as the chicken pox, more transmissible than the common cold, and can be easily be transmitted by the vaccinated as the unvaccinated.

For the first time in nearly six months, the Utah Department of Health reported more than 1,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. It hit more than 1,200 on Friday. Most of the major hospitalizations are among people who are unvaccinated and healthcare workers report their ICUs are once again filling up with COVID patients. Doctors are following “breakthrough cases,” where people are vaccinated are testing positive for COVID-19. Pfizer is recommending a third booster shot for eligible people, as parents wait for an approved vaccine to be released for their children 12 and under.

The CDC is once again recommending mask wearing indoors for large gatherings. President Biden announced that all federal employees, which is about two million people, will be required to get vaccinated. Although a bill passed in a special session earlier this year prohibits mask mandates in Utah schools, health and governmental leaders announced recommendations for students and stuff to wear masks as they prepare to return to school.

Erin Clouse, strategic engagement manager for University of Utah Health, joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for our monthly IN FOCUS discussion on the state of the pandemic. She used chart and graphs to illustrate how Utah’s current spike in COVID-19 cases compared to others in the past year, which age groups are most impacted by the current spike, the significance of vaccinations, how mask mandates affected the numbers, what the trends were during last school year, and whether there’s been an uptick in vaccination rates since this new surge.

Prof. Teneille Brown from the S.J. Quinney College of Law talked the history of vaccinations and mandates, which agencies and jurisdictions can mandate vaccinations, whether laws can help or hurt attempts to mandate vaccines in businesses and facilities, how mask requirements differ legally, and the conversations around civil liberties and choice.

Dr. Nels Elde, evolutionary geneticist at the University of Utah, discussed scientific research papers about how the pandemic ends up being used for political means, what scientists are finding about the idea that COVID-19 came from a lab, studies that sample coronaviruses in Southeast Asia that show the virus likely came from the wild, cases that were traced back to potentially farther than Wuhan using statistical methods, and what can be done to slow the cherry picking and misinterpretation of science.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Clouse, Prof. Brown, and Dr. Elde, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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