Summit Health Director: "It's On Us" To Deal With Covid-19 Surge
In his monthly report to the Summit County Health Board, Health Director Rich Bullough said that the surge of Covid cases has a deadly grip on the county, the state of Utah and the country.
The responsibility to be careful falls on families and individuals, he said. But one Board member wondered if it’s time to look again at temporary lockdowns of some business sectors.
Bullough and his staff reported that as of November 2nd, the county has had 1540 cases, 71 hospitalizations and one death during the pandemic. Recently they had one day with 36 new cases, their highest daily count yet.
He said that the East Side of the county, adjusting for population, now has as many cases as the West—a development they had been expecting. In fact, he said that currently, the most cases in a school district are in South Summit.
Bullough also said that the new Index protocols established by the state may be grim, but are realistic.
He said the evaluation shows that all but six counties in Utah are classified as high-level-transmission-risk areas. Summit County was designated in the past as a moderate or low risk. But Bullough said the county was never actually low-risk.
Bullough surveyed some of the graphs showing the development of the pandemic since the spring.
“Here are our peaks in March, very well under control. We expected as we opened for there to be surges. I was hopeful that we wouldn’t see the kind of surges that we’re seeing right here, especially as we enter the winter season and businesses are ramping up, ski industry for example.”
He said that the data shows the school districts in the county are doing well.
“Park City School District, obviously larger population, larger number of cases. Many of these cases tended to be associated with single events, and in some cases, single teams, single groups of kids. And so they tended to peak at the same time, and decline at the same time.”
Bullough said there are discussions at the state level about what to do next, but he’s not entirely privy to those.
Health Board member Ilyssa Golding asked if it’s time to talk about temporary closures of some business sectors.
Bullough said the trends don’t justify that at the moment. He said the data from the state shows the case surge is being driven by get-togethers of extended families and other small gatherings, in many cases involving young people.
He said that he and Deputy Health Director Phil Bondurant have been asked why they don’t clamp down on fitness centers, where customers are allowed to exercise without masks.
“We don’t have evidence right now to change that. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have that evidence tomorrow, if we have a major outbreak in a fitness facility. But we have not seen that. My thought is that it makes, at this point in time, good sense to begin having discussions with businesses about increased mitigative measures on a broad scale. And those might include further limiting gathering size. It might include things like further limiting density and occupation at a restaurant for example. But we simply don’t have the knife, the razor-edge, sharp data that allows us to hone in on a specific sector or
event at this point.”
Still, Golding said they’re running out of options.
“We didn’t have this data in March, when we closed down the whole country. And it worked really well to have done so. I completely appreciate what you’re saying. I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, that—we know it works, even if we don’t have the data. So we’re kinda running out of options here.”
Bullough said it would be very, very difficult to go back to lockdowns, and he doesn’t foresee that happening in the immediate future. Bondurant said that impacting someone’s livelihood, without data to back it up is “almost shooting from the hip.”
Bullough said right now, it’s coming down to individual responsibility.
“We began this conversation months ago by saying, assume everybody has it, and assume you have it, and act accountably for those assumptions.”
He said we have to prepare for a challenging winter.
“There’s so much outrage about wearing masks. Doing away with mask wearing is gonna make this worse, not better. And if we want to continue to keep businesses open, have a ski season and be able to live as normal a life as possible, we need to focus on our own behaviors.”
Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough.