State health dept. and Utah leaders disagree with White House coronavirus ‘red zone’ report

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Utah Department of Health along with some of Utah’s local leaders are speaking out after an unpublished document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, recommended Utah roll back reopening measures amid surging cases.

Utah is one of 18 states put in the “red zone.”

The “red zone” is defined as states who “had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week,” and a diagnostic test positive result above 10-percent.

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The article about the coronavirus red zone was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington, D.C.

The report recommends Utah close bars and gyms to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the following two cities and five counties:

  • Salt Lake City
  • St. George
  • Salt Lake County
  • Washington County
  • Tooele County
  • Millard County
  • San Juan County

Here’s how some of Utah’s officials are reacting to the report:

The White House Coronavirus Task Force has published weekly state-specific snapshots for several weeks now. The report provides a concise look at the current situation in Utah. We share these reports with our partners throughout the state, and they are just one of the many considerations we take into account when determining how the state can limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Utah Department of Health monitors the trends and data carefully and provides updates to the state leadership on a regular basis. This data is also updated daily at coronavirus.utah.gov.

We make recommendations to state leadership, including the Governor’s office, based on these trends and other factors like testing and hospital capacity. We recognize public health is not the only voice in the decision making process. Decisions about statewide mandates or restrictions also take into account input from experts in economics, education, etc. Ultimately, the decision about statewide restrictions resides with Governor Herbert.

We also work closely with our local health departments and local health officers. The local health officers use a similar process of monitoring trends in their local areas and working with local city or county leadership to determine their courses of action, in addition to providing input to state officials.

Utah Department of Health

The White House sends us regular reports on Utah’s COVID-19 status, including data and recommendations. The data seems to correspond well with our own data, and we appreciate their suggestions. Those recommendations generally track well with the actions our state and local health departments are already pursuing, though of course our actions are more targeted on the specific circumstances of our outbreaks.

Governor’s Office

While I appreciate any additional touch points that emphasize the importance of caution in fighting COVID-19, I disagree with the White House’s analysis for Salt Lake County. We have taken remarkable strides to maintain pressure on the virus, and preliminary data shows efforts are working. For example, in late May 2020, Salt Lake County represented 60% of confirmed cases in the State of Utah. In the past three weeks since mandating face coverings, we’ve dropped to 35%, with day to day counts being as low as 29% of the state’s COVID cases. Policy recommendations in the report have been implemented, including face coverings, messaging, testing, and contact tracing. Salt Lake County will continue to address the demands place on us by COVI-19.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson

Salt Lake City, and our county are seeing good initial results in our data following our mask mandate. Requiring people to wear masks is like requiring people to wear seat belts: it’s a low impact way to keep people more safe. Our state is continuing to see a steady rise in new COVID cases. School is about a month away.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall

There’s so much at stake if we don’t start taking better steps to make improvements. Now is the time to require masks statewide.


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Brittany Johnson
Brittany prides herself on seeking the truth about everyday issues in the community and providing citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions.

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