A new state of emergency went into effect in the state of Utah at 1 p.m. on Monday as part of the efforts to ease the burden of COVID-19 on the state’s hospital system.
“For the next two weeks, I urge you to only hang out with those who live in your household. So only people that are under your roof, and sleep in the same house should be gathering for the next two weeks. This will be the start of us being able to save our healthcare system,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn in a Monday morning press conference with Gov. Gary Herbert.
During the press conference, the two answered questions about the new state of emergency guidelines. In addition to not gathering with those outside of your household, most sports and extracurricular activities are on hold for two weeks and masks are mandated throughout the state.
Expanding COVID-19 testing throughout the state is also a key piece of the plans state officials have to hopefully reduce the spread of the virus throughout Utah.
Herbert said there are hopes that with federal help, the state could reach a capacity of testing 20-30,000 people a day. And while that will likely dramatically spike the number of cases of COVID-19 identified in the state, over time, it can help reduce the cases in the state.
“Currently, our percent positivity is over 20%,” Dunn said. “That means that there are a lot of cases out there who don't even know they have COVID. And so they're out coming into close contact with other individuals and potentially spreading the virus. We need to identify everybody who has COVID-19 in order to stop the spread of it.”
When more people are able to know if they have COVID-19, Dunn said this will make it easier for them to isolate and not spread the virus to others.
Dunn said it is also important to know that the number of people dying from the virus is a data point that lags because of the incubation period.
“And right now the denominator, the number of people that are infected is increasing so rapidly, that our case fatality rate will drop,” she said. “But that doesn't minimize the impact that it's currently having on our hospitals, when people are struggling to find ICU beds and provide adequate care.”
More information about the guidelines can be found on coronavirus.utah.gov.