ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – With 138 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3 hospitalizations in Southwest Utah reported Friday, leaders said they were anticipating being approved as early as midnight for a “yellow” reopening designation, just days after the state rejected their initial request and one week after the state moved to “orange.”
But early Friday evening, officials in Southwest Utah learned the state wants to wait at least until Monday because the area’s COVID-19 “transmission rate” has elevated to 5.0 over the last 7 to 14 days, officials with the city of St. George tell ABC4 News. The state told local officials the rate is supposed to only be at 1.5 or less in order to go “yellow,” and the plan is to wait until at least Monday and observe this weekend’s COVID-19 data.
At this point, local officials say the “yellow” designation will only apply to 3 counties under the supervision of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD): Washington, Iron, and Kane counties. The other two — Garfield and Beaver counties — are not included because county and city officials here said they did not feel comfortable, officials say.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike told ABC4 News Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton with the Utah Department of Health told officials with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) to resubmit their request for “yellow” earlier this week. Pike said local leaders received approval from SWUPHD officials, who then submitted the letter on their behalf.
Pike said Burton joined the St. George City Council meeting Thursday evening, telling them he was pouring over their COVID-19 data and believed they qualify for the “yellow” designation. Pike said he also spoke to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who he said lead him to believe they would be approved sometime on Friday.
“We want to protect the most vulnerable while putting the rest of us back to work as quickly as we can in the most responsible and safe manner,” said Pike.
SWUPHD said that under “yellow”, all businesses would be allowed to reopen and gathering limits would increase to 50 people. Social distancing, the use of face masks, and hand washing would still be considered a major public health priority, according to health officials.
On Monday, Southwest Utah received its rejection from the governor’s office and UDOH, according to Pike, who told ABC4 News the state believed it needed to monitor a potential spike in COVID-19 cases under “orange” guidelines and directives before loosening restrictions further.
Pike says he expects the 5-county-district will see a spike in new COVID-19 cases once this designation is approved, but he added that he believes local leaders have given the local healthcare system ample time to gear up for additional hospital beds and much-needed personal protective equipment. He tells ABC4 News he fully believes the community will continue its efforts to protect the most at-risk residents: the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Friday’s most recent numbers show 138 confirmed cases in Southwest Utah, including 6 new cases. 90 cases — or 65% — are considered recovered, according to SWUPHD.
Southwest Utah: 138 total confirmed cases, including:
- 6 new cases
- 90 recovered
- 3 currently hospitalized
- 3 deaths (3-26-20, 4-23-20, 5-3-20)
- Washington County: 103 (5 new + 3 previously undesignated)
- Iron County: 29 (1 new)
- Kane County: 3
- Beaver County: 0
- Garfield County: 3
- 7,376 tests performed (as of last report received)