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Utah prepares for novel coronavirus to arrive

Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 20:33:43-05

SALT LAKE CITY — State health officials are preparing for the potential of novel coronovirus to turn up here.

At a news conference Friday, the Utah Department of Health and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox urged people to be informed as they worked to enact plans to be prepared for the potential of the outbreak to finally arrive.

"We have investigated Utah residents as possible cases for novel coronavirus," state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn told reporters.

She said there have been 10 people who have been found to be at risk for novel coronavirus, but all of that testing has come back negative. Dr. Dunn said two more cases were still awaiting results.

The Utah Department of Health has been preparing for the possibility. It has activated an incident command system and is coordinating with local health departments, hospitals, clinics, schools, Salt Lake City International Airport and even businesses with ties to China. The state has created a website to educate people about novel coronavirus.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is recalling some missionaries from Hong Kong and Macau. They will be monitored, said state health officials, to look for any symptoms. Travel in and out of China is being restricted because of the outbreak, which originated there.

The Utah Office of Tourism said it was anticipating some impact from the travel restrictions because of the outbreak. Chinese tourists make up the second-highest number of international visitors to Utah with nearly 84,000 people visiting in 2018 (Canada is the highest).

"While the origin of this particular virus and outbreak can be traced back to China, it would be inappropriate, not to mention medically ineffective, to ostracize anyone from our communities or exclude anyone from our places of public gathering based on their race, nationality or ethnicity," Lt. Gov. Cox said.

He urged people not to panic about novel coronavirus.

"I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you about something we should be concerned about. That is the influenza virus that is very active in the state right now," Lt. Gov. Cox said.

To date, Utah has reported 535 cases of the flu -- with fatalities. Nationwide, there are 12 cases of novel coronavirus.