SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox and other state leaders briefed Utahns on the current COVID-19 situation caused by the omicron variant in a news conference Friday morning.
“The overall message is that the omicron variant of the virus has outmaneuvered everyone and every effort to contain it," said Cox. "That we may be in for a bumpy ride in the short run, but things will hopefully get better soon.”
The governor says he and his staff have been meeting for the past day and half about how we should pivot on battling the surge in cases. Utah has seen new daily records for new COVID-19 cases every day this week which is putting a strain on hospitals that are short staffed.
"We’re still having alpha fights in an omicron world! Omicron is very, very different … the disease is much, much more transmissible, much more contagious.” Cox added.
Along with the surge, Cox also addressed the huge lines of people that are now waiting every day to get tested for COVID. He says the promised number of home-testing kits have not arrived in time, but believes they will be here in the next week or so.
At this point, testing sites and testers are overwhelmed, and State Epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolan has a fairly straightforward response to anyone who’s not feeling well.
“If you’re symptomatic, we encourage you to assume you have COVID," said Nolan. "It is so common right now, it’s very likely that you do and it’s not necessary for you to get tested. And instead, stay home, isolate for five days act as if you are in fact COVID positive.”
Dr. Nolan also offered a reminder about the pause in the state's Test-to-Stay program involving Utah schools. The plan for that system was to determine how many students had the virus and keep them home so they couldn’t infect others.
"In Davis [County] we had schools yesterday test with 250 kids turn out positive. That means we’re doing it too late, and so Test-to-Stay really isn’t doing what we need it to do, we wanted it to stop the spread, it’s behind, its not able to stop the spread.”
Governor Cox also acknowledged what doctors have been saying, that wearing a cloth mask is worthless against omicron.
“I saw one national expert who said they are window dressing, so a cloth mask doesn’t do anything.”
While everyone who attended the briefing with the governor wore masks, Republican lawmakers Kirk Cullimore and Brad Wilson chose to forgo the protection.