In his latest visit with KPCW, Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough talked about just what it will take to get back to a “new normal.”
He also discussed the mask order exemptions given to local fitness centers and the revised guidelines from the governor’s office.
After the past five months of COVID-19, many people are hoping for either herd immunity or a vaccine.
However, Bullough said the former isn’t going to happen without a vaccine.”
“It’s a myth that’s being spread out there,” he said. “But the reality of it is, you’re not going to get to the roughly 70 percent without a huge number of deaths. And I shouldn’t say just deaths. What we’re finding with COVID-19 is it leaves people maimed. A relatively large proportion, somewhere in the ballpark of 25 to 30 percent of those that are hospitalized, end up with permanent damage. Sometimes, that’s lung, heart, peripheral nerve damage. This isn’t something you want to mess with.”
His position along with other public health authorities is that a vaccine is needed.
“And the ‘new ormal’ will occur when that vaccine is produced, first of all identified to be effective and safe, is produced in large numbers and is administered in large numbers,” he said. “We keep hearing mid-winter or so. My own target is that honestly, I hope to be well into and maybe through the process of initial vaccinations, mass vaccinations by spring. So I think this winter’s gonna be busy. I’m really hopeful. The data look great on the vaccines.”
On a related issue, the Summit County Board of Health recently granted some exemptions from the mask order for patrons of local fitness centers and gyms.
Bullough said the Board made the right decision. He said while it may seem counter-intuitive, they haven’t found any outbreaks stemming from gyms in Summit County or over the state of Utah.
“The bottom line is, the board made a decision to ease restrictions during exercise. Not in the facilities,” he said. “Masks are still required in the facilities. But once the individual is at their personal exercise space, they are allowed to remove a mask. And so, an example, an exercise mat, a yoga mat that is socially distant, spaced 6 to 10 feet apart. That is a requirement of removing the mask.”
He said the county will continue to monitor the gyms and make any changes if necessary.
Bullough said that the fitness centers and other local businesses, are cooperating. He said no commercial establishment wants to have a COVID-19 outbreak attributed to them.
Meanwhile, the governor’s office has issued some revised guidelines. Bullough said they don’t have much impact on Summit County.
“There are some changes specific to restaurants, a little bit of easing with respect to cleaning,” he said. “The cleaning requirements were very stringent before—twice a day, now it’s once a day. The requirements haven’t changed. They’re still having to wipe down frequently, but they only have to close once a day to clean. There’s a few small changes to buffets. But really nothing very significant at all.”
Bullough said guidelines for weddings are still unclear because they would often constitute religious gatherings.
“I wish I could just give you a single answer, but it depends on whether or not it’s an established venue for the purpose of that, whether or not it’s indoors or outdoors,” he said. “Generally, in the phased guidelines, gatherings, including weddings, are 50 or less. For our mask order, we require, if it’s outdoors, that individuals wear masks. If it’s 50 or more, and outdoors, and everybody indoors has to wear a face covering. That’s problematic with a wedding, as you can imagine. So we have been working with some venues, trying to hone in mitigative measures to make sure that we can manage this stuff while still allowing for filming, and the vows to be said, and all of those different things.”