A day after officials learned that a Utahn tested positive for the coronavirus, they’re investigating everyone they can find who came in contact with that person.
“We're in the middle of that right now,” Dave Spence, deputy director of the Davis County Health Department, said on Saturday afternoon. “We're trying to determine where that person was, who they were with and what kind of contact they had.”
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The identity of the patient has not been released. The only information made public is that he or she is over the age of 60; is believed to have been exposed to COVID-19 on a cruise ship; and had been back in the state of Utah for about a week when he/she was diagnosed.
“That's a long time and a lot of people for us to contact,” Spence said. “There are a lot of different directions to go in and a lot of people for us to talk to.”
That includes family members, friends and people the patient might have had contact with while out and about. As of Saturday afternoon, Davis County Health Department officials have “no indication that anyone else has the virus,” he said. “But we’re still investigating.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 164 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and says 11 people have died. The U.S. outbreak has spread to 19 states, including Utah neighbors Colorado, Arizona and Nevada. The largest outbreaks are in Washington and California.
In a series of tweets, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox outlined how Utahns can limit the spread of the illness and why taking preventative measures — like thoroughly washing hands and staying home when feeling sick — matters.
Cox said that he and other officials have learned from the outbreak in China that fewer people will die from the illness if healthcare systems aren’t overwhelmed. That’s because an overburdened system has less capacity to care for gravely ill patients.
“So yes, all those things we’ve been telling you really do matter! While we are still at low risk, if you have a cough, fever or shortness of breath — even if you think it is just a cold — PLEASE stay home from work/school/church," he tweeted.
The first Utah coronavirus case wasn’t a result of “community spread," but Cox tweeted that person-to-person transmission within the state was likely. He also said that it’s possible the state will enact “social distancing measures” to lessen the risk of an outbreak here.
If officials prescribe “social distancing,” that could mean schools, movie theaters, sporting events and church services could close or be canceled.
The NBA has already warned teams of the possibility of games being played in empty arenas, multiple outlets have reported.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints postponed its pre-General Conference leadership sessions because of the virus, and has warned faithful coming from abroad to cancel their trip for April’s conference.
There has been no update on the Utah patient’s condition since officials announced the case Friday evening; he/she was sent home to recover and is under a county-issued isolation order.
On Friday, shortly before it was announced that Utah had its first case of coronavirus, Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency as a precaution.
The Utahn who tested positive for the virus was on the cruise ship Grand Princess. That’s the same ship that is currently being held off San Francisco after 21 people on board (out of about 3,500) tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Utah patient was on the ship’s previous voyage.
For more information on Utah’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.