The Southwest Utah Public Health Department reported two new deaths from COVID-19 in Iron County Tuesday, and Utah continues to experience a statewide spike in coronavirus cases, leading state officials to make additional restrictions.
In response to the 650 new cases statewide, state health officials announced during a Tuesday press conference Utah’s first increased restriction level from yellow (low risk) to orange (moderate risk) in Utah County. The restriction along with a mask mandate for the county will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
“An immediate change needed to occur to some color restrictions, which would be the most prudent intervention at this time,” stated Rich Saunders, interim director of the Utah Department of Health.
State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn announced Utah’s current COVID-19 statistics in the press conference as well.
“Today we have 161 individuals hospitalized due to COVID-19, up from 115 last week. We have seen an increase in cases in 12 of our 13 local health districts. 15-24 year olds still have the highest case rates but they’re not the only ones being impacted by this spike.”
As of Sept. 22, there is a seven-day rolling average of 857 cases, up from 522 one week ago.
The positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in Utah is now at 13.9%, up from 10% last week and the highest it’s been thus far.
As of Tuesday no new cases were reported for Iron County and 657 have recovered, bringing the official case count to 723 according to the SWUPHD.
Utah County is continuing to be the main driver, according to Dunn, with cases growing by 81% in the last week. Of the cases in Utah County, over 57% were in Provo and Orem, and in some areas people are three to six times more likely to have it than anywhere else in the state.
“This is the first time we’ve rolled backward. This is an inconvenience and we recognize it,” Gov. Gary Herbert said at the conference.
One exception was made to the updated color restriction that allows team sports in Utah County to continue but with no spectators, a guideline that orange restrictions do not allow. This exception comes just days after the BYU-Army football game was postponed due to a small number of BYU players testing positive for the virus, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
In addition, the Tribune reported that Rich County will be transitioning to green, bringing the number to 14 counties with the “new normal” restriction level.
“These restrictions are temporary, and the length of that time is dependent on all of us and our decisions,” stated Saunders.
Story by: Larissa Beatty
photo courtesy of SUU.