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Loosened restrictions in Utah don't mean infections are down

Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 20:25:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Red to orange.

What does it mean?

It means the Governor and a commission of lawmakers are convinced the state’s medical system is not being overwhelmed by COVID-19, and they can try to move into what they call a “stabilization” phase.

What does it NOT mean?

It does not mean the danger of infection is lower than it was in mid-March when Governor Herbert first pronounced his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive.

That’s why the Governor, Lt. Governor, and state epidemiologist all used different language to say Utahns need to wear face masks: The Governor expressing his “pet peeve” at going to the grocery store and seeing people without them; The Lt. Governor saying “I beg you,” in his comments on the subject.

Utah has several clear examples this week of counties where numbers are moving in the wrong direction.

Summit County looked like it was well over the fear of increasing infection numbers with only 12 new cases as of Monday, April 20. One week later, they had 40 new cases.

Wasatch and Washington Counties also saw upticks after two weeks of declines.

Utah County case numbers continue to skyrocket, with 330 new infections reported in the last week.

Salt Lake County remains at a high case increase rate…jumping 519 cases in the seven days leading to April 27. That was up slightly from the 514 cases in the preceding week.

So why is the outlook optimistic enough to start loosening restrictions?

Utah has tested more than most states, and far more than any state with as low a prevalence of the disease.

As test numbers have gone up, the percentage of positives has gone down. It’s closer to 4% than 5% while many states are still getting positive results in around 20 percent of the tests they perform.