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