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

COVID-19-Related Death of Resident

NEWS RELEASE – (03/27/2020)

Southwest Utah Reports COVID-19-Related Death of Resident

ST. GEORGE, UT – The Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) is reporting the COVID-19-related death of a local resident. The woman, an older adult under the age of 60, passed away yesterday in a Salt Lake area hospital. She had significant underlying health conditions.

The patient had tested positive for COVID-19, and the SWUPHD is in contact with individuals who have been in close contact with her. They are being asked to quarantine or isolate while monitoring for fever and respiratory symptoms.

“We want to express our sympathy for this individual’s family and friends”, said Dr. David Blodgett, SWUPHD Health Officer. “We encourage our community to maintain social distancing in your daily activities and make the effort to protect our older or vulnerable residents.”

While most people who are infected with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and will fully recover, older adults and people with compromised immune systems are more at risk of serious illness and complications. Utah’s current State Public Health Order recommends that anyone over the age of 60 or who is immunocompromised should avoid contact with any other individual except to receive critical assistance. Everyone should avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips (other than shopping for food and other essentials), and social visits.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If someone has these symptoms and has been in close contact with a known positive COVID-19 case, that individual should immediately call their health care provider for guidance. People with questions about COVID-19, including testing, can call the Utah Coronavirus information line at 1-800-456-7707.

For Southwest Utah COVID-19 updates visit swuhealth.org/covid. For other essential information and state updates, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.

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PDF File – SWCOVID-19 March 27

March 12, 2020 COVID-19 Announcements for Utah

Announcements from Gov. Gary R. Herbert, the
Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force, the Utah
Department of Health, and the Utah Association of Local
Health Departments

These proactive measures to limit the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Utah
communities are effective for the next two weeks beginning on Monday, March 16,
2020. At that time, the Utah Coronavirus Task Force will re-evaluate these
recommendations to determine the most appropriate actions we need to take as a state
to keep Utahns healthy.

Limit mass gatherings of more than 100 people if everyone in the group is
healthy, including church.

This includes gatherings such as church and religious services, concerts, conferences,
and other events or places where large numbers of people gather together.

This recommendation does not currently apply to public K-12 grade schools. We ask
that local school districts and schools with closely with their local health officers on a
case-by-case basis to determine if or when it is appropriate to close schools.

If you are immunocompromised or have underlying medical conditions which put you at
an increased risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19, you should not attend any mass
gatherings.

Stay home if you are sick. We ask employers for leniency and tolerance for employees
who are sick and need to stay home to help prevent the spread of this disease.

If you are older than the age of 60 or are immunocompromised, you should limit
your participation in groups of more than 20 at a time.

Anyone who is immunocompromised or who has underlying medical conditions which
puts them at an increased risk for severe symptoms for COVID-19 should avoid
gatherings with 20 or more people. This recommendation does not apply to businesses.
If you can work from home, we are asking business leaders to implement
teleworking as soon as possible.

Businesses should allow employees to telework immediately, if feasible. We encourage
business leaders to make teleworking available to as many employees as possible and
expand what they may already be doing in this regard.Long-term care facilities will have restricted or screened access.

Local health departments must protect our most vulnerable citizens. We ask that local
health departments work closely with long-term care facilities to restrict visitor access
and monitor employees and visitors for symptoms of COVID-19.

All Utah Systems of Higher Education institutions are ‘going digital’. Campuses
and campus services will remain open. Labs will still be held.

Encourage social distancing and travel restrictions for students, employees, and staff.
Restrict nonessential travel for employees. School-sponsored events and gatherings
should be canceled. Classes will be conducted online as immediately as possible
K-12 schools (public, charter, private) are being asked to prepare to close. There
is a 3 tiered plan in place for this, called “Ready, Set, Go.”

Closing a school is a local decision supported by the state and public health officials.
The decision to close a school should not be made out of fear or anxiety but rather in
close coordination with your local health officer. Do not close schools unless there is an
imminent threat to students and staff and in close coordination with your local health
officer. Additional guidance on school closures is forthcoming.

All school related out-of-state travel is canceled. Extracurricular activities will be
evaluated by local health officers in consultation with schools. Schools should begin
planning to postpone or cancel large school-sponsored events and gatherings, such as
assemblies, conferences, sporting events, etc. again, in consultation with their local
health officer. Consider staggering recesses, lunch times, and the start and end times of
school dismissal so students aren’t gathered in large numbers at one time.

Teachers and staff should amplify hygiene measures in the classroom such cleaning
high-touch surfaces regularly and having students wash their hands more frequently
before and after lunch, recess, etc.

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COVID-19 Update for Southwest Utah

NEWS RELEASE – (03/11/2020)

COVID-19 Update for Southwest Utah

WASHINGTON, IRON, KANE, BEAVER, & GARFIELD COUNTIES, UT –  The spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) has met the criteria to be declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Although there have been no confirmed community-spread cases of COVID-19 in the five counties served by the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD), some people who have been exposed or infected through travel and do not require medical treatment are being allowed to return to their homes where they will be isolated from contact with others and monitored according to recommended protocols.

“The risk of COVID-19 to the average resident remains low,” says Dr. David Blodgett, SWUPHD Health Officer and Director. “However, we are preparing for any local cases that may emerge. We have been working closely with healthcare providers in the process of screening and testing patients.”

The SWUPHD encourages residents to practice measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in the community:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and running water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Stay home if you are sick.

  • Cover your face using a tissue or arm when coughing or sneezing.

  • Wearing a mask (including N95 masks) is not useful unless you are sick (to protect others) or in close contact with someone who is sick, such as a patient or family member.

  • Stay informed by visiting coronavirus.utah.gov.

  • If you’re worried about whether you may have COVID-19, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707.

  • Review or create preparedness plans for yourself, family, business, or organization in case of temporary restrictions or closures of schools, churches, events, or other gatherings.

Pandemic response plans have been refined and practiced on a regular basis since 2002 by the SWUPHD and community partners including city and county governments, emergency managers, hospitals and healthcare providers, EMS (Emergency Response Services), fire departments, law enforcement, churches, school districts, businesses, and volunteers. We have access to critical resources if needed and are in frequent contact with state and federal public health authorities regarding the latest recommendations for minimizing the impact of COVID-19 in our area.

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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

COVID-19 Patient Released from Hospital

NEWS RELEASE – (03/06/2020)

COVID-19 Patient Released from Hospital

ST. GEORGE, UT –  At the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19, but has had no symptoms,  has been released from the hospital. The individual was infected outside of the United States and has recently been under observation at a medical center in northern Utah.

The individual is currently under a state-issued order to remain isolated from the community. The order will remain in place until the patient has had two consecutive negative tests for COVID-19.  The Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) will be monitoring the patient until resolved.

“We have made contact with this patient and have begun our monitoring procedures,” says Dr. David Blodgett, SWUPHD Health Officer and Director. “This patient does not pose a risk to the public, and we will continue to work closely with local, state, and federal public health partners to address any future COVID-19 cases in our community.”

There are currently no cases of COVID-19  diagnosed in Utah. Additionally, at this time, there is no evidence of widespread COVID-19 transmission in Utah.

For updates and more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov. If you’re worried about whether you may have COVID-19, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707.

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Influenza Death Confirmed in Southwest Utah

News Release (1/6/2020)

Influenza Death Confirmed in Southwest Utah

ST. GEORGE, UT – The Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) has confirmed a recent influenza-related death of a resident of the five-county district. The individual was an adult under the age of 65 who was infected with influenza type A.

“We have had 36 people hospitalized from the flu this season,” reports Kassidy Peterson, SWUPHD Epidemiologist. “Their ages range from infants to the elderly. It’s not too late to get vaccinated and we urge everyone to do so, especially those whose age or health condition makes them more vulnerable.”

Type A and B influenza viruses cause epidemics almost every winter in the United States. Influenza is contagious and can spread by droplets from infected people when they talk, cough, or sneeze.

Symptoms may include rapid onset of fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue, and vomiting and diarrhea (although this is more common in children than adults). People at high risk of flu complications, such as young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions should consult their doctor if they are experiencing flu symptoms.

The best way to prevent seasonal influenza is to get vaccinated every year. Flu shots are still available at your nearest SWUPHD office. Visit swuhealth.org/flu for locations and more information.

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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


RESOURCES:

  • CDC Flu Prevention – LINK
  • St. George News Article – LINK
  • KSL Article – LINK
  • KUTV Article – LINK
  • Fox13 Article – LINK

$5 A1C Tests During National Diabetes Month

News Release (11/1/2019)

$5 A1C Tests During National Diabetes Month

In recognition of National Diabetes Month, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) is offering a free prediabetes risk screening and a $5 A1C test for diabetes and prediabetes throughout November (80% discount). To qualify for the reduced price you must be at least 18 years old and a county resident. You do not need to fast or make an appointment. Just visit the St. George SWUPHD clinic at 620 S. 400 E. between 8am and 5pm on weekdays (closed until 1pm on Tuesdays).

The A1C test involves a simple finger prick and you will know your results within a few minutes. The results will place you in the range of normal, prediabetic, or diabetic.

It is estimated that one-fourth of people with diabetes are unaware they have it, and 90% of people with prediabetes are unaware of their condition. Left untreated, these health conditions can lead to very serious health problems down the road. Diabetes can be managed in many ways, and taking action if you are in the prediabetic range can prevent the disease from developing in the first place. That’s why it’s so important to be screened for diabetes and prediabetes. Plan to get your $5 A1C test in November!

The SWUPHD is also offering a free community forum on how to “Navigate Diabetes in the Grocery Store”, presented by Melanie Taylor, MS,RD,CD on Thursday, November 14th at 6pm (at location listed above). To learn more, visit swuhealth.org/diabetes or call Jeff Smith at 435-986-2552.

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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