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0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02e0000KPCW's COVID-19 news coverage for Summit County and Wasatch County, Utah. 0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02f0000You can also visit the Utah Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization websites for additional information.

Covid Rates Worrisome, But Expected, Says Summit Health Director Bullough

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Summit County Health Department
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Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough says he’s not happy with the Covid case rates right now.

But he says that the surge, following a holiday, isn’t a surprise.  It’s repeating what they saw a month ago, after Thanksgiving.

Bullough, reporting to the County Health Board at their first meeting for 2021, said that as of Sunday, the county had recorded 3309 cases, 110 hospitalizations, (an increase), a 14-day count of 502 cases, and five deaths during the pandemic.

Bullough said that the case rates and the positivity rates are not where they want to be.   But it’s exactly what they expected.

“We’ve been issuing warnings, as has every other public-health agency in the country, that we would see a surge the week after Christmas.  And indeed on December 30th, we saw our highest case count in the entire Covid event.  And that was 62 new cases.  We have since gone from a relatively low positivity rate—10, 12, 11 percent, to a positivity rate of 22 percent this week.”

He said that the state of Utah, and almost every county in the state, saw an enormous surge.

Bullough said he expects to see a similar surge seven days after New Year’s, but he doesn’t know if that will be an addition to the Christmas numbers.

However, he said he’s hoping that, similar to the weeks after Thanksgiving, they will see the cases eventually plateau and even decline.

On a positive note, he said that the East Side of the county has improved.    Their case numbers per 100,000 are no longer higher than the West Side.   But the county-wide numbers are still a concern.

Bullough said there’s also good news about the incidence of flu this season.      

“Because of the lack of travel from the Southern Hemisphere, because of mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing, etc, there is almost no flu.  The flu incidence rate is very, very low right now.   And let’s just hope it stays that way, because that is, in essence, what’s allowing the hospital systems to keep afloat.”

Monday was also the beginning of the county’s Free Covid Rapid Testing Program for local businesses and employees.

As we have reported, the program follows up on a current state guideline, which says that if an employee has been quarantined due to a Covid exposure, they can return to work after day seven, if they are asymptomatic and if they have a negative result on a Covid Rapid Test.

Deputy Health Director Phil Bondurant said workers have to schedule an appointment for the tests, being done by the People’s Health Clinic.    But a test can be set up within a day and takes about 20 minutes.

Bondurant said they tested a handful on Monday already.     One person was asymptomatic but tested positive.

He said it’s a good way to keep businesses functioning, until vaccines are available for the general public in the spring and summer.

Bullough said he doesn’t think it would be effective for Summit County to return to a business lockdown, because it’s been determined that the current case surges are being driven by family get-togethers or informal groups.      

“Despite the fact that these numbers are not encouraging, programs like the one that Phil just described I think are an intuitive direction.  Our intent is to continue to manage this, continue to be creative, continue to be aggressive, but try our very best to maintain businesses being open, individuals working, and individuals being able to make ends meet.”

          Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough.

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