State Epidemiologist Says ‘Social Distancing Is Working’

Utah reached 806 confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday, after testing more than 16,000 people. The state health department has identified four deaths related to the virus.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise daily, but state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn says physical distancing and stay-at-home measures appear to be working. Dunn says 10% of the state’s confirmed cases seem to be due to community spread, which means those patients don’t have a clear source of transmission – for example, they haven’t recently traveled abroad or come into contact with a known positive case. Dunn says that rate is lower than in neighboring states.

“That means social distancing is working,” Dunn said. “The point of social distancing is, yes, to keep you safe and you healthy but also to prevent you from potentially infecting others, who if they got COVID-19, they would have to go to the hospital and receive a high level of medical care.”

In Utah, 90% of people with COVID-19 recover at home without medical care; 10% end up in hospitals. The state has ramped up its testing capacity and is testing more than 2,000 per day. Dunn says the test is very sensitive and has a low false-negative rate.

“So, we are confident that when a patient tests negative for COVID-19, they don’t have any of the virus circulating,” Dunn said.

On Monday, Wasatch County issued its own stay-at-home order, mirroring prior actions by Summit County and Salt Lake County. The orders require residents to stay home, except for essential tasks and activities, like buying groceries. In Summit and Wasatch, the orders also prohibit visitors to the county coming to recreate. Dunn says the state supports the counties’ decisions, but with no state ban on interstate travel to Utah, there doesn’t seem to be much enforcing visitors to comply.

“We do recommend that people traveling into the state of Utah from those high-risk areas — right now, it’s Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York — actually quarantine for 14 days when they get here, similar to what we were doing with other countries with high spread of disease,” Dunn said. “And, of course, our messaging that you should isolate upon symptoms will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Utah as well.”

Summit County reported 176 confirmed cases Monday. Wasatch County reported 45.

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