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As the rate of coronavirus infection continues to rise in Utah, Governor Gary Herbert on Monday relaxed the state’s health routine and lifted all restrictions on social gatherings days before Thanksgiving.
The order, which takes effect at 12 noon on Tuesday, continues to require a mask in public, indoors or outdoors, when physical distance is not feasible, said Rich Saunders, acting director of the Utah Department of Health.
However, this not only removes the two-week ban on gatherings of people from separate households, but also the previous restriction of 10 people to social gatherings in high-transfer counties.
Instead, the state merely “suggests” that Utahns limit gatherings to their own households.
– We think it’s a little stretchable [say]“We’ll tell you what to do on the walls of your own home,” Herbert said at a weekly press conference on COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the rate of new diagnoses continued to rise despite the fact that test reports were somewhat silenced, which usually occurs at the beginning of each week. 2,224 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Utah on Monday, with a weekly average of 3,345 positive daily test results – a record high.
“This measure will continue to grow,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said at Monday’s press conference.
On Monday, permanent hospital care took place with the simultaneous admission of 545 Utah patients, UDOH reported. Utah hospitals have treated an average of nearly 540 patients a day over the past week – up from about 400 patients two weeks ago when the stricter health regime first came into effect.
“This weakened, new order is sending a message to people that for the holidays, home assembly is safer than it was two weeks ago, when data shows it absolutely isn’t,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a press release Monday.
He called on Herbert and lawmakers to “take bold measures to protect our health by making data-driven policy decisions” without giving any action.
The number of new patients arriving at Utah hospitals particularly affected intensive care units, which showed an average occupancy rate of 88% last week, up from 75% two weeks ago. According to hospital administrators, this figure does not take into account changes in staff levels, as nurses and doctors have to care for sick families or be quarantined themselves.
It also does not address how many patients need the same type of specialists, as more than a third of ICU patients are there on COVID, which also accounts for an increasing proportion of non-ICU patients. A total of 7,602 patients were hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, of which more than 1,400 have been reported in the past two weeks.
“There’s a 460-bed hospital here, and more than 20% are there in case of an illness,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem of Intermountain Medical Center, where he is an infectious doctor. “In the worst flu season, you can see five to ten people across the hospital in the flu intensive care unit. Here are two, very limited, borderline ICUs that are made only for COVID patients.
Herbert admitted that hospitals go beyond their borders.
“Somehow we get full utilization when it comes to ICU beds,” he said, noting that non-ICU beds are still available. – They’re being treated. They just don’t get that good care.
But in hospitals today, the workload of patients is mostly made up of people diagnosed a year ago when the number of cases was lower. This means that increasing hospital care is inevitable.
“Our hospitalization next week is the result of cases we’ve had in recent weeks,” Dunn said. It will take a few more weeks to see the effects of Thanksgiving – and only those who become infected during the holiday will be infected, and not those to whom the newly infected will inadvertently spread the virus the following week.
Saunders advised that Utah holding rallies, now governed by a proposal rather than a policy, could consider “10 or fewer people” in a high-data county – a limit set by the previous state order introduced in October.
“You can think of 50 or less in a low-transmission area,” Saunders said. Of Utah’s 29 counties, 26 are considered “high transmission” based on their infection rate, percentage of tests with a positive result, and hospital care. The standards are the same as the previous standards used in the October order.
The new order also maintains rules of distance in some businesses, such as restaurants, bars and gyms. This also allows for extracurricular activities in schools that have been suspended under a two-week emergency order.
From November 30, Saunders said students and staff involved in extracurricular activities should review COVID-19 every other week. For club sports, participants should be checked for symptoms and recent exposures prior to each event and practice.
As for Thanksgiving, Herbert called on Utahns to keep the gatherings small.
“It increases the risk when you bring people into your home, the four walls of your house,” Herbert said. – It’s just the harsh reality.
Potluck dinners, where everyone brings a dish, can increase the risk, said Herbert, who added that the health recommendations are for a person to wear a mask and prepare food.
He also stressed good hand washing: “20 seconds – sing“ Happy Birthday ”to yourself twice.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus victims in Utah on Monday was 797, with four deaths reported since Sunday:
- An over 85-year-old Salt Lake County man.
- Salt Lake County woman aged 45-64.
- Two Washington County men, 65-84 years old.
136 deaths have been reported in the last two weeks, the deadliest 14-day period of the virus since the start of the pandemic.
One of the bright spots in Monday’s update was the positivity rate of the tests, which Dunn says are “starting to experience some stabilization” for further testing.
Last week, 23.6% of all tests were positive – an indication that a large number of those infected are not being tested, government officials said. 7,462 new test results were reported on Monday, but this is far below the average of about 14,000 new tests a day.
Herbert said Monday that the state continues to urge people to be tested, including those who are asymptomatic. The state aims to perform 250 to 300,000 tests a week, he said.
“I hope to stabilize,” two weeks after the emergency order, Herbert said. But he added, “We’re definitely not out of the woods yet.”
When patients test positive, contact monitoring becomes increasingly difficult – not only because there are so many new cases, but also because utahnok reports more and more contacts, even as the virus becomes more common.
“It makes it very difficult to track on time,” Dunn said. “We are constantly adding new contact track markers and building this capacity. In any case, there will come a point where we need to have a measurable approach to individual behavior to limit the number of contacts in addition to contact tracking to make contact tracking more effective. “
The state, Dunn said, “is looking for ways to bring technology into our contact-finding process, and is constantly looking for ways to re-level contact to get the most out of it, given such difficult times of growing cases.”
In addition to further testing and monitoring of contacts, the state is also working to better match the order of the mask.
Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles Business School, says Utah’s economy, while in a better position than other states, is “fragile”. He added that “we need to find a way to bridge the health of our farm” while a vaccine is available, and asked Utahns to wear a mask.
“We know that people on both sides of the equation suffer, both economically and healthily,” Herbert said, adding that his goal is to strike a balance between health requirements and economic openness.
But it does not discuss how this balance could change if coronavirus cases and hospitalizations worsen, or whether the state will eventually require some businesses to suspend operations.
“I don’t know what will happen,” he said. “I hope we all do only the things we know we need to do, and hopefully they’ll get better.”
Herbert said some health workers will be able to get the vaccine in December and most in Utah will have access to the vaccine by mid-next year. Getting the vaccine, according to Herbert, “can give us hope, the light at the end of the tunnel”.