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Utahns impacted by COVID-19 are pleading for their neighbors to take it seriously

Stephanie Deer funeral photo
Posted at 2:44 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 18:15:03-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Stephanie Deer didn't lose her sister to COVID-19. She lost her sister because of COVID-19.

Laurie Pratt Terry, 47, had a heart attack and died trying to get care that didn't happen quickly enough because the hospital's intensive care unit was full with COVID-19 patients.

"She should be here. She has a 9-year-old boy," Deer said through tears on Thursday. "And she would have survived if she could have gotten care sooner."

It's a brutal reality of the COVID-19 pandemic that Utah's political leaders and health care workers have warned about. Intensive care units are full and staff are overwhelmed because of the rising COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, Utah reported nearly 4,000 new cases of novel coronavirus and nine new deaths. The 16 hospitals across Utah equipped to treat COVID-19 patients report their ICUs are now 87% full.

"Everybody has a sister or a brother, a child or a parent that they care about. And if putting on a mask can save them? If not doing sports? If staying home? I know it's hard for all of us," Deer said. "But trust me, it's easier than what I'm going through and I don't want anyone to go through that. Please wear a mask and social distance. You will save lives."

Deer is among several Utahns impacted by COVID-19 who are sharing their stories in public service ads put together by Salt Lake County's Health Department being played on TV, on the sides of buses and on billboards to get people to follow the new restrictions and public health orders. Lisa O'Brien, who founded Utah's COVID-19 Long Haulers group, said it is not a virus you want to get.

"The more we can share our stories, the more people will take this seriously," she said, urging others who are recovering to speak up to save lives.

Both Deer and O'Brien said not enough people are following the requirements to limit in-person gatherings, wear face coverings and stay physically distant. That was echoed by state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn at a news conference on Thursday.

She said COVID-19 continues to spread throughout all communities across every age group.

"Our only hope for slowing the spread of COVID and protecting our hospitals, is if each one of us is wearing masks way more than we’re doing it now," she said. "And we only need to have close interactions with those in our household. We all desperately need these things to happen right now."

The public health orders imposed by Utah's Department of Health and Governor Gary Herbert's new state of emergency have only been in effect since Monday.

"It’s going to take a couple of weeks to see if what we have has any kind of effect," the governor said.

Dr. Dunn said there was some positive signs. High schoolers are starting to adapt to the restrictions and are being more compliant. Recent testing of high school athletes found a smaller level of spread, which gave her hope.

The orders will expire on Nov. 23, a few days before Thanksgiving. As FOX 13 first reported, Gov. Herbert is working on recommendations for how to handle Thanksgiving, and concerns that it could become a "super-spreader." He said on Thursday those recommendations now won't be announced until next week.

Meanwhile, he called on Utahns to follow the health directives to bend the curve of coronavirus cases.

"I hope we can go back to normal, and not have more government restrictions placed on us," Gov. Herbert said.