The Summit County and Utah state health departments reported encouraging news in a statement on Wednesday: there is statistically significant data showing that the rate of COVID-19 cases in the county has slowed down since it issued its mandatory mask order on June 26.
Health Director Rich Bullough told KPCW that at that time, with new cases increasing amid the onset of the July Fourth holiday, they felt the order was necessary.
Accounting for the two-week incubation period for the coronavirus, the data showed that cases increased from June 27 to July 11, then started to plateau. In the two weeks after July 4, a consistent decline in new cases started aside from a single-day spike.
There was a statewide decline during the same period, but Bullough noted the rate and magnitude of decline was significantly greater in Summit County.
“What we did is we looked at the slope of decline in new cases, from July 10, comparing Summit County to the state, and running it through to July 27,” he said. “And we found a very significant difference in the rate of decline. In fact, the p value is 0.0002, which is a very strong finding. In fact, if I just share the numbers on July 10, the state was at 20.56 cases per 100,000, we were at 21.05 per 100,000. Those are new cases. As of the 27, the state was at 15.36, and Summit County was at 10.6. And I looked this morning, and we are at about 8, so we can continue to see that decline.”
In the press statement, Summit County Council Chairman Doug Clyde said, “Our situation at the end of June was extremely troubling, but thanks to our residents and businesses, we have turned the corner. We hope to hold this course by continuing to properly wear masks and only gathering when and where it is safe to do so.”
For the near future, Bullough said the county is aiming to increase the amount of contact tracing it can perform. So far, it’s difficult to say the COVID spread is coming from one particular area.
“Specific to events, businesses and generally gatherings, places that we think coronavirus spreads,” Bullough said. “And as strange as this seems right now, we’re not finding any really clear trends. It makes sense that we’d see cases coming from businesses where relatively large numbers of people gather, so for example, restaurants and bars. But we’re not seeing that on a real consistent basis. We’re still seeing a fair amount of family spread, so a single case and it will spread within the family. We’re not seeing a huge amount of travel-related. It has increased from virtually zero to about 15% and right now, it’s at 8%.”
He added the county recently recruited ten more people to work on contract tracing to find the sources of new infections.
Another good sign is that testing in Summit County shows a positive rate of 8% compared to about 10% for the state.
A significant number of out-of-county visitors are being tested. But Bullough said positive cases there are not included in the county’s data.
“Even if they’re here and they have a second home, and it’s not their primary residence—their primary residence, let’s say, it’s in Florida—they will be counted as a Florida case. But any contacts that are Summit County residents related to that Florida case, would be counted as Summit County cases.”
Bullough, however, added that he doesn’t look forward to the change of seasons in a couple of months. He hopes he’s wrong, but officials are preparing for a surge in cases in the fall and winter.