COVID-19 Update – November 3, 2020

COVID-19 Update

David W. Blodgett MD, MPH (SWUPHD Director & Health Officer)

Scientific understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with rapid advancements in medical and public health capacity to deal with patients – and the virus itself – are ongoing. 


Our understanding of the disease

Local, state, and federal data has allowed us a clear picture of who is most impacted by this disease, and helps tailor a better approach for prevention and containment.  It is evident that those who are over the age of 65 are much more affected. Of those who are tested and are positive for COVID-19, the following is true: 28% of those over age 85 will require hospitalization.  21% of those aged 65-84 will require hospitalization, 7% of those aged 45-65 will require hospitalization, 3% of those aged 25-45, and less than 1% of those under 25 will require hospitalization. 

It is equally clear that there are well defined risk factors that influence whether someone will fare poorly with this disease.  These factors include  obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease (not to include mild or moderate asthma), being immunocompromised, and substance abuse.  94% of those who have passed away from this disease were known to be either in one of the older age groups, had an underlying disease risk factor, or both.  Overall, the risk of death from COVID-19 in Utah is .7%, but it is 18% for those over 85 and 5% for those 70-84. It is .6% for those 50-70, and below that it rapidly drops to less than .01%.  These numbers only reflect the cases that we are aware of because they were tested.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did serology testing in Utah and estimated that there are 11 cases for every case that we detect.  This means that the true hospitalization and fatality rates are much lower. 

80% of the spread of this disease happens from 10% of the cases.   Most infections happen in families or social groups; about 85% of the time an infected person is able to identify who gave it to them.   Sometimes people are exposed at work, when they travel, or in other situations – but that is the exception.  The vast majority of transmission happens when two people are within 6 feet of each other for more than 15 minutes.  This is a disease of close contact.  Most cases are infectious for about 5 days starting 5-7 days after they are infected.  The ability to rapidly identify those who are infectious, rather than those that are merely infected, is the question most important to public health. 

Interventions for COVID-19

Medications and medical interventions:  Advancements in the understanding of how to treat this disease (and what to do and not do) in the medical setting have dramatically changed the nature of what it means to have COVID-19.  The average COVID-19 stay in the hospital is less than 7 days where it was once more than three weeks. 

Vaccine:  Progress toward a safe and effective vaccine continues.  Over a hundred vaccines are in development. Six are in the final stages of testing, called Phase 3 trials.  We are ramping up our efforts to prepare for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in our area.  It is hoped that the vaccine will be available in large quantities by spring 2021.

Testing:  The ability to access rapid, cheap, readily available testing for Sars Cov-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) will be a game changer in our response to this disease.  Identifying infectious cases in real time (within 15 minutes) through frequent testing will overcome most of the challenges we have in halting the spread.  Abundant rapid antigen tests would allow us to test everyone going into nursing homes, restaurants, or just making social visits.  Numbers of cases in the community would plummet. Unfortunately, these tests are still too expensive and not available in quantities that would ultimately make a difference, but progress is being made.  The rationale for this testing approach is addressed well in these two articles.  The first is more accessible, the second is a scientific paper. 

https://harvardmagazine.com/2020/08/covid-19-test-for-public-health

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.22.20136309v3.full.pdf+html

Priorities for the future

Protecting those most at risk should be our highest priority.  Testing sites should allow for rapid testing and easy accessibility that will provide testing before entering a high-risk situation, rather than wondering if you are exposing your co-workers or someone you love to this disease.  Until that time, we will prioritize our testing capacity to focus on those who work with both the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. 

Personal responsibility must be a cornerstone of how we seek to meet the risks posed by COVID-19.  Everyone can spread this disease, so please carefully consider what you can do to protect the high-rick people around you. 

Because this is a disease that spreads primarily through close contact with someone that has symptoms of the disease, basic public health measures can go far to help you in your quest to avoid the illness.  Staying home when you are sick is critical, keeping physical distancing to at least six feet as much as possible, washing your hands, and wearing masks all add up to reduce the chances of infection. 

Southwest Utah COVID-19 Update

News Release (October 6, 2020)

Southwest Utah COVID-19 Update

ST. GEORGE, UT – Since COVID-19 was first detected in our district seven months ago, the pandemic continues to impact Southwest Utah. Cases and hospitalizations fell after a summer surge, but the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) is reporting a recent increase in COVID-19 activity.

Although there are currently no local outbreaks linked to school exposures, several care centers in Washington County are experiencing outbreaks among their residents. Elderly people – especially those with underlying health conditions – are at high-risk for COVID-19 complications and make up most district hospitalizations and deaths.

“We continue to urge everyone to do all they can to protect our vulnerable family members and neighbors,” says Dr. David Blodgett, SWUPHD Director and Health Officer. “Act as if you may be infected; keep your distance from those outside your home, wear a mask when near others, wash your hands, and stay home if you’re sick. Most of us will be fine, but the chances of serious illness increase dramatically in people over 65, especially when combined with hypertension, heart or lung issues, diabetes, kidney disease, a history of smoking, or obesity.”

Kane, Beaver, and Garfield counties are currently under Green (minimal) restrictions while Washington and Iron counties remain at Yellow (low-risk) restrictions. Local positive testing rates are too high for Yellow counties to go Green (the state requires below 5%) but all five counties are well below the limits that would lead to higher restrictions at this time.The precautions mentioned above should continue at all levels, and high-risk individuals should use extra caution when possible.

Although there is not a general mask mandate in Utah, face masks are required on state property, including schools and universities. Businesses may also require masks to enter and employees must wear them if working within six feet of others.

Testing for COVID-19 is widely available, and Intermountain testing sites are now using saliva samples instead of the uncomfortable nasal swab. Call their testing hotline at 844-442-5224 to see if you should be tested.

Vaccine for COVID-19 is expected to be available to the public by spring 2021. In the meantime, the Health Department is encouraging all residents over 6 months of age to get this year’s flu shot in order to help keep influenza from overwhelming hospitals and healthcare providers who will likely still be dealing with COVID-19 patients this winter. Flu shots are available on a walk-in basis at the SWUPHD office in St. George (620 S. 400 E., 2nd level: enter from the east parking lot). Cost is $20 or no charge with many insurances, and it only takes a few minutes.

COVID-19 case reports and updates for Southwest Utah can be found online at swuhealth.org/covid and on Facebook and Instagram (search swuhealth).

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The mission of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department is to protect the community’s health through the promotion of wellness and the prevention of disease. Visit our website at www.swuhealth.org

Southwest Utah COVID-19 Update

News Release (May 27, 2020)

 Southwest Utah COVID-19 Update

SOUTHWEST UTAH – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Southwest Utah since the first positive case was reported in the five-county district on March 6th, 2020. An average of 11 positive COVID-19 test results have been reported per day to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) over the past two weeks, mostly in Washington County. While Iron County also has active cases being investigated, Beaver, Garfield, and Kane counties currently have no known active cases of COVID-19.

“In Utah, we have a 99% recovery rate for those infected with COVID-19”, states Dr. David Blodgett, SWUPHD Health Officer. “However, people over age 60 or those with underlying health problems are more likely to have complications or be hospitalized. That’s why it’s so important for them to have limited contact with others and for the rest of us to keep things running while protecting them.”

The SWUPHD encourages all residents to follow Governor Herbert’s directives. Southwest Utah is currently under Yellow (low-risk) guidelines, although individuals and businesses should still keep at least 6 feet between people or household groups (masks should be worn in close range of others). High-risk people should continue Red precautions until further notice, including wearing masks when in public.

“It’s impressive how our local officials, schools, hospitals, and businesses have responded during this difficult time,” says Dr. Blodgett. “Many people in our community have stepped up to serve each other and find creative solutions. Our hospitals remain below critical capacity and COVID-19 testing is widely available. We hope to see our case rates decrease in the near future as we continue social distancing, which remains our most important effort in dealing with the virus and keeping our vulnerable residents safe. This is also a time for patience and tolerance as we deal the best we can with uncertainty.” 

Local COVID-19 case reports and updates can be found online at swuhealth.org/covid and at swuhealth on Facebook.

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The mission of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department is to protect the community’s health through the promotion of wellness and the prevention of disease. Visit our website at  www.swuhealth.org

Getting Tested

Southwest Utah Public Health Department Guidelines

for Getting Tested for COVID-19

Updated April 15, 2020


You can now get tested for COVID-19 if you have even mild symptoms, including one or more of these: fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches/pain, loss of taste or smell, or sore throat (if you are having difficulty breathing, you should seek immediate medical care, or dial 9-1-1). Contact your healthcare provider  or CLICK HERE to find a testing location near you. You can also:

  • Call the Utah COVID-19 Information Line: 1-800-456-7707
  • Visit Intermountain Healthcare’s COVID-19 Symptom Checker – LINK

 

Funerals

Southwest Utah Public Health Department 

Guidelines for Funerals

Updated April 1, 2020


The SWUPHD is providing the following guidance for funeral services based on Utah’s State Public Health Directives. Funeral homes should work with the family of the deceased to identify how to honor their loved one without a physical gathering for a funeral service until restrictions are lifted. This could include recording or live-streaming technology, or families could also be encouraged to plan a larger memorial service or celebration of life at a later date. A small graveside service could also include members of the deceased’s immediate family who live in the same household, a clergy member, and a funeral home staff.

Hair and Nail Salons

Southwest Utah Public Health Department Guidelines

for Hair & Nail Salons, Barbers, Tanning Salons, Massage, & Body Art Studios

Updated April 9, 2020


Utah’s State Public Health Directive recommends that individuals avoid the businesses & services listed above until further notice. If these businesses and services remain open, they should follow these guidelines:

  • Consider appointment-only services.
  • All employees should wash their hands frequently throughout the business day.
  • Sanitizer should be available at each workstation and throughout the establishment.
  • Lobbies and waiting areas should be closed; clients may wait in their vehicles until a station is ready.
  • Social distancing (minimum of 6 feet between any people besides the worker and client) should be implemented between workstations.
  • All chairs, tools, and supplies should be sanitized after serving each client.
  • The establishment (including doors, lobbies, and high-touch surfaces) should be cleaned frequently.
  • Management should ensure daily (and at the beginning of each shift) that no employees have symptoms of illness (including cough, fever, shortness of breath). Employees showing any signs of illness should not report to work or should be sent home immediately if they become symptomatic during the day.
  • Cash payments are discouraged. Staff who handle cash or credit card payments should use cleaning measures between each transaction. Use online payment options when possible.
  • Clients and customers should be screened by phone or in person before entering the establishment for any symptoms of illness and should be asked to reschedule if they are sick or have been ill recently. Clients over age 60 should be asked to postpone their visit until restriction are lifted.