Summit County Health Orders Extended Through The End Of The Year
The Summit County Council on August 26th voted to extend the county’s Emergency Declarations and Health Orders through the end of the year.
County Health Director Rich Bullough presented those items. During the discussion, he also responded to some Covid complaints that have been passed on to the Council.
The Council voted for three inter-related documents, first approved back in the spring. The first is a Declaration of Local Emergency.
They also extended a Declaration, in particular, applied to Public Health.
Thirdly, they extended the county’s Local Public Health Order. This includes the county’s Mandatory Order for masks or face coverings. Bullough added the order also specifies that two types of masks are not approved—a single-layer Lycra covering that is transparent, and face coverings with two-way valves.
The order also incorporates the modified practices that the Board of Health approved last month for child care centers and fitness facilities and gyms.
The Orders run through next January 8th, though the county could change or rescind them if new information justifies it.
On some related discussion, Council Member Kim Carson asked Bullough to field some criticisms that a constituent sent to her, about the public health response to the coronavirus
One of those is the idea that the reported amount of cases is meaningless because it’s based on the amount of testing, and those tests are often inaccurate.
Bullough said he disagreed with that.
“It is true that case counts can be affected by testing volume. But absolutely the statistical analyses have been conducted multiple times to look at the impact, both state-wide and in Summit County, of testing volume relative to case counts. And there is some effect, but it doesn’t explain the variation in case count. It certainly doesn’t explain the peaks and valleys that we observe in case count. So I think that is a very important indicator, in particular when it’s adjusted for population. So our new cases per 100,000 is an important indicator, because it allows us to compare to communities that are a different size.”
About masks, Bullough said there are many studies that show they are effective at slowing the spread.
“We have some local studies that were not, admittedly, not controlled trials, just simply comparing the slope of decline of COVID cases state-wide, to that of Summit County after we issued the mask order. We did have a more significant decline than the rest of the state. Salt Lake County did similar analyses and found similar results. There’s been multiple studies published in peer-reviewed publications that have demonstrated that masks are effective. And they’re not just effective, by the way—this is relatively new information. We’ve known for quite a while that they’re effective in protecting you from my virus. But now we’re understanding that they also protect individuals from others’ virus. So it’s a two-way thing. The impact appears, in a double-layer cloth mask, appears to be somewhere around an 80 percent reduction in risk.”
Bullough said it’s also not the case that the majority of Summit County residents have contracted the virus. He said the University of Utah found the rate was, at most, four and a half percent.
He said even world-wide, there are no countries that are close to herd immunity.
“Even in Sweden, where they’ve been looking at natural herd immunity, a majority don’t have antibodies.”
Finally, the constituent said that Covid’s fatality rate has been overstated. Bullough said there is some validity to that, when early models projected a death rate of roughly 3 percent.
“Months and months and months ago, I speculated that I thought that number was high. And I was criticized for doing that. But the reason I did it was because testing wasn’t being conducted. So we knew our denominator wasn’t reflective of actually what was out there. So we were gonna over-estimate case fatality rate. Case fatality rate—most studies are now suggesting it’s below one percent.”
Bullough did say there are exceptions, noting that Sweden, which hasn’t closed anything down, has a fatality rate of 6.8 percent.