State Asks For Masks, Eye Protection To Shore Up Protective Equipment For COVID-19 Emergency

Mar 25, 2020

There are 346 confirmed cases statewide, up 48 from Tuesday. Summit County sits at 97 cases, while Wasatch County remains at 16 confirmed cases. 

With a continued, daily increase in COVID-19 cases, Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn notes that most cases have occurred in patients 25 years and older. The count is low for children under 18, and for kids who have had it, Dunn says the illness is mild and there aren’t severe cases leading to hospitalization.

“That’s a good thing," Dunn said. "Children are tending to recover on their own; their own immune system is fighting off COVID-19. However, they can be very good spreaders of the disease, so we’re asking if any children are sick, parents keep them at home and especially keep them away from older adults who might be more vulnerable.”

About 10% of the state’s cases have resulted in hospitalization, though Dunn says the state is still collecting data on how many patients have required intensive care or a ventilator. Anyone who is 14 days out from their infection is considered recovered. The state now has capacity to test 2,600 people per day, and anyone who has symptoms can get tested, though people still need to consult with their health care provider through telehealth before heading to a testing location. Five percent of those tested are testing positive.

More than 2,000 Wasatch High School students and staff are set to end their two-week quarantine Thursday, after a student tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in March. Dunn explains what happens when a mandated quarantine ends.

“If they remain asymptomatic for the full 14 days, that means they did not get COVID-19 from their exposure," Dunn said. "So, everybody who is released from quarantine poses no risk to the public and is not infected with COVID-19.”

Someone is quarantined when they’ve had close contact with a known positive COVID-19 case. People are required to stay home for 14 days, and local health departments check in with them daily to assess their symptoms. If they have symptoms, they’re tested for the virus.

Otherwise, Dunn says, people need to make every effort to physically avoid others — what’s known as social distancing. That includes not gathering in groups larger than 10 and keeping at least six feet of space from others. Without a vaccine, Dunn says it’s the only way to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed.

“In every state and country where that happens, cases go off like wildfire," Dunn said. "We are doing everything we possibly can to keep our case count low, so our health care providers are safely able to care for everybody that comes in for emergent services.”

In another effort to keep from overwhelming hospitals and clinics, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered restrictions Tuesday on non-essential medical, dental and veterinary procedures, such as colonoscopies or regular check-ups. The measure will help preserve personal protective equipment, like masks and gowns, for emergency use. The state has also set up a donation process for the equipment and is asking health care professionals, construction, manufacturing and other industries to donate gowns, masks, eye protection and gloves. The state does not want home-made masks and equipment.

More information about donation times and locations can be found at coronavirus.utah.gov.