This State Could Be Facing a "Complete Shutdown," Epidemiologist Says
"This might be our last chance for course correction," the state's epidemiologists said in a memo.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, some states are faring better than others. Reopening continues across the country, but many experts are warning that not every area is ready to return to normal. Rising numbers in certain states have prompted calls for a return to lockdown, with new restrictions also emerging to try to slow the spread of the virus. The situation in one state has progressed to the point that the state epidemiologist is now suggesting a total shutdown until the outbreak can be contained. "We are in the acceleration phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in Utah," state epidemiologist Angela Dunn, MD, wrote in a memo shared with Fox 13.
She continued: "We are quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown. This might be our last chance for course correction. Contact tracing and testing alone will not control this outbreak."
According to The New York Times, there are currently around 17,570 coronavirus cases in Utah, and that number has been steadily rising. On June 22, the state broke its record of new daily cases with 643—a record set the previous day, June 21, with 586 new cases.
Utah uses a color-coded system to express current coronavirus risk. According to Fox 13, "Utah has seen an uptick in cases ever since the state moved to 'yellow' or a low risk for COVID-19 around Memorial Day." In her memo, Dunn says the colors are the "key messaging tool to the public," and recommends that "if we do not reach a rolling 7-day average of 200/cases per day by July 1, we need to move the entire state to orange."
Covid Act Now, a group of experts who analyze available data and determine each state's risk level for the spread of coronavirus, uses their own color-coded system. They currently already have Utah at an "orange," which connotes a high level of risk. This is based on the state's infection rate (the number of people the average person will infect) of 1.12 and the positive test rate of 10.2 percent. These numbers suggest two things: 1) cases are rising and 2) not enough testing is being done. Utah is also lacking in contact tracers, with only enough available to track 54 percent of cases, according to the analysts.
And while Covid Act Now believes Utah has sufficient ICU beds available for high-risk coronavirus patients, Dunn's memo includes startling specifics: Intermountain Healthcare, which provides hospital and other medical services in the state, has said it will exceed ICU capacity in July, and University of Utah Health could exceed capacity in four to eight weeks.
In order to avoid a total shutdown, Dunn's memo urges the state to mandate face coverings "either by government or business enforcement." If the state government refuses to do so, she continues, "we need to be clear with public about why decisions are being made lessening restrictions—economic, not health. Be clear about health risk. Be clear about how these decisions are made and who makes them." And for more states that could be in trouble, check out these 5 States That Are "Losing Control" of Coronavirus, Doctor Says.