Quarantine guidelines updated; Governor says days ahead ‘may be the toughest stretch’ as COVID-19 cases remain high

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The fight against COVID-19 continues as state officials share their weekly update on how the state is navigating the pandemic.

The state of Utah will now follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine guidelines.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said if a person is exposed to COVID-19, they’re now allowed to end quarantine after 10 days instead of 14 days – as long as they do not have signs or symptoms.

By day seven of quarantine, if a person does not show symptoms of the virus, Dunn said they can now test out of quarantine.

“The purpose of these changes in the quarantine guidelines is to reduce the hardship that has been placed on individuals due to a full 14-day quarantine,” she said. “We’re hoping this helps people adhere to quarantine a little more and decrease spread, but also allow people to limit the unintended consequences that go along with quarantine.”

Just because quarantines will end sooner, Dunn said there’s still risk, as a person could develop symptoms in the days following. She asks people to be mindful and watch for symptoms.   

“It is important to continue wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, and of course, if you become symptomatic, isolate immediately,” she said.

The Utah Department of Health’s website breaks down what to know about the new guidelines.  

“The CDC in fact indicates in the next few months – may be the next 45 to 60 days – may be the toughest stretch of all,” said Governor Gary Herbert.

With record-breaking case counts, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise throughout the country, ABC4 News asked Herbert and Dunn what additional challenges they believe Utahns could face in the coming months.

“For me, it really is the social gatherings. It’s not the structured gatherings where people put protocols in place,” he said, “it’s the interactions we have that are just kind of casual.”

“In addition to what the Governor said, it’s colder, we have holidays going on, people are going to be inside,” Dunn said. “I think what we’re also really concerned about is the January return to school for both universities and high school kids.”

Dunn and Herbert said increased testing is how the state plans to continue tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to continue to ramp up testing as part of the solution,” he said. “With a particular emphasis on our students – college and high school.”

And they’re hopeful once a vaccine is available, it too will help slow the virus’ spread.

“That means 2021 is going to be a good year,” Herbert said in his closing remarks. “When we get into the summer months, we’ll be in full-blown recovery – I believe – that gives us hope and optimism…but we know the next 60 days are going to be critical.”

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