Coronavirus Identified In Summit County Resident; Health Department Provides Guidance
Wednesday afternoon, a case of COVID-19, known as coronavirus, has been confirmed in Summit County. The patient is a man younger than 60 who recently traveled to Europe. His close contacts will be identified and monitored for symptoms which could be flu like. If someone has traveled recently and they are experiencing coughing, fever and shortness of breath, they should contact a health provider.
As of Wednesday morning, COVID-19, which is the abbreviation of coronavirus-2019, is now a worldwide pandemic. The most recent update from the Utah Department of Health states the disease has not changed in the U.S. While there are pockets of transmission, there has not been community-wide spread.
The symptoms include coughing, fever and difficulty breathing. Symptoms can be mild and go undetected in some people but can also be severe in others causing lower respiratory illness and pneumonia.
The most recent World Health Organization data shows about 4,300 people have died from COVID-19 compared to flu related deaths which range from 29,000 to 600,000 people a year. Summit County Nursing Director Carolyn Rose says they’re more concerned because it’s a new virus.
“So when you have a new virus that has mutated from something that is normally only seen in animals and then it goes from animals to humans, and then it mutates again and goes human to human, that's when we concerned because we don't have any data. We don't have any history of this to show what is happening or what may happen in the future and so that's why it is of such concern.”
Summit County Health Director Richard Bullough says they've been working closely with the Utah State Department of Health and the CDC. Testing for the virus will not be done at the Summit County health department.
“The testing is being conducted in central labs. The primary lab is the state lab. There are two other labs currently in the state that were just approved to be testing and they are doing so now. But we don’t anticipate a time where the health department would be conducting the test. We don’t have the equipment to do that.”
Rose says they are following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines when determining if a sick person should be tested. She says Utah has enough tests so health care providers can make the decision to test their patients. They’ll consider the symptoms, recent travel history and if the patient is over 60. The severe cases often involve patients with immune system compromises or chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, hypertension and diabetes.
“The people who are the sickest with coronavirus are having lower-respiratory issues, so that deeper cough. They may have pneumonia. It just depends on your immunity and if you have any other illnesses or chronic conditions.”
Bullough says the local health districts have the authority to create their own messaging but they communicate several times a week with the Utah Department of Health.
Bullough says school superintendents and school boards are part of the decision making when deciding to close schools. He asks school districts to use guidelines from the CDC website.
“We have met with the three superintendents and we will be distributing specific guidelines to them this week. The school Superintendents and the school boards are part of the decision-making process. Public health has the authority to go in and close schools. It's complicated enough and there are enough consequences that it would be foolish to do that without having discussions and buy-in from the school itself."
The Park City Chamber Bureau is communicating with member businesses and Bullough has requests that Chamber President Bill Malone ask businesses to support their employees if they need to stay home due to illness. Many Summit County businesses don’t provide sick time benefits.
“Social distancing is important. There's good evidence that if you can maintain a distance of about six feet, that transmission goes way down. There's a lot more coming out of us than you think, so even if you got sniffles and you happen to crank off a sneeze or cough, you don't want to be within that distance.”
Bullough says everyone should use disinfectant to clean work areas, phones and keyboards. When in public, clean off menu’s, gas handles and pens before using them. Stop shaking hands and use a namaste bow or elbow bump instead. Bullough says it takes focus and discipline to stop touching your face and he asks folks to wash hands, wash hands and then wash them some more.
Go to the Summitcountryhealth.org/coronavirus for a list of effective cleaning materials.