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Utah gains 34 COVID-19 cases in largest 1-day increase to date; total stands at 112, official says



SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 20, 2020 — Utah has gained 34 new documented cases of COVID-19 since yesterday, Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, said Friday at a the lastest in a series of daily updates on the coronavirus in this state.

“Today, we are reporting 112 cases in Utah, 102 in Utah residents and still 10 in visitors,” she said at the last scheduled conference until Monday.

“That’s up 34 cases from yesterday, so that’s our largest jump in case count thus far in the outbreak.”

“We don’t have any new local health departments reporting cases,” she said, meaning departments that had zero cases Thursday still have zero cases. “Total testing thus far as been 2,147 Utahns, so yesterday were able to test 621 people for COVID-19.”

Dunn said there’s been uncertainty about the outbreak, but some things are known.

“What we do know is that we are still relatively in the beginning of this outbreak in Utah. We can expect more cases. But we know that when we adhere to social distancing restrictions and when we stay home when we’re sick, that we will start to see a decrease in cases. So you can play a part in helping end this pandemic  by staying home when you’re sick and maintaining social distance, and this will help save lives in Utah.”

Dunn said new cases reported are more travel related than community spread, “but we are expecting more community spread as we move forward in this outbreak. We have seen a consistent rate of increase every day. So its been about a 50% increase this entire week from day to day. More cases lead to more cases, so that’s why were’re seeing a bigger jump in the raw number of cases.

“That’s the whole reason behind social distancing restrictions. We expect to have more community spread, but  with social distancing and staying home when you’re ill, we will decrease that number of cases we see day to day, eventually.”

Dunn noted that fighting the pandemics is not a short-term project, so people should consider their mental health while staying as safe as possible. She suggested heading out for a walk in an uncrowded area, and staying in touch with friends. Very small gatherings of a few friends known to be uninfected could be helpful, she said.

But as the norm, social distancing should remain in place.

Answering reporters’ questions, Dunn said many Utah hospitals have agreed to limit elective surgeries in hopes of reserving personal protective equipment for healthcare providers treating COVID-19 patients and emergency medical cases unrelated to the coronavirus.

Dunn said that state health officials have enough supplies to keep hospitals running for just a few days, although supplies held by individual hospitals are not counted in the state totals.

Answering another question, about the safest way to pay for food and other personal supplies, Dunn recommended using a credit or debit card to be run through the scanner by the customer, not by clerks. That would limit exposure viruses that could potentially on the surface of cards, she said.

Dunn also noted that the virus is spread through coughs and sneezes that can leave COVID-19 containing droplets on surfaces. Such viruses can live for a couple of days, she said, which is why frequent hand washing and infrequent face touching are so important. The potential of viruses lingering on surfaces is also the logic behind decreasing the use of cas, she said.