Utah coronavirus cases jump to 602, but no new deaths

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Medical workers provide drive-thru COVID-19 testing at University of Utah Health’s Redwood Health Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 27, 2020.

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Utah now has 602 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but no new deaths, according to numbers released Saturday from the Utah Department of Health.

Also, Rep. Ben McAdams was released from the University of Utah Hospital, where he had been treated for the past eight days for a severe shortness of breath. McAdams, D-Utah, is one of five members of Congress who have tested positive, and the only Utahn.

The state saw an increase of 122 cases on Saturday — up from 480 on Friday. That’s a 25% increase. Utah has had two deaths related to the virus, none reported Saturday. The most recent — a woman from southwest Utah — was announced Friday.

The total number of people tested in the 24-hour period also rose from 9,244 to 11,312.

Salt Lake County jumped from 221 to 279 confirmed cases, while Summit County increased from 110 to 135.

Counties in northern Utah also saw increases, with both Davis County and the Weber-Morgan area reporting nine new cases each. Davis now has 59 cases, while Weber-Morgan has 29.

Meanwhile, McAdams sent a tweet from in front of the hospital shortly after his release Saturday. He had a short beard and appeared gaunt. He thanked his supporters and well-wishers. He urged people to take the disease seriously and follow public health directives.

To slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gary Herbert has asked all Utah residents to stay home. On Friday, the governor said people should not gather with anyone outside their household. And children should not be having play dates or going to public playgrounds.

Some “essential” travel is allowed, he said, such as caring for family members, friends and pets, seeking emergency services, obtaining medications and medical services, shopping for food or donating blood.

The state had previously prohibited restaurants from offering dine-in service, but the governor encouraged resident to still support those businesses by ordering takeout or delivery up to three times a week — or buying gift cards.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued her own order Friday, turning the governor’s recommendations into a mandate. City residents who fail to comply could be charged with a class B misdemeanor.

Mendenhall also tightened restrictions at the Salt Lake City International Airport. No one is allowed inside without an airline ticket or airport badge. All passenger drop-offs and pickups must be done curbside or in the parking garage, with all individuals other than travelers remaining in their vehicle.

A former jail inmate has the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Uintah County, officials announced Saturday. However, the TriCounty Health Department does not believe the individual contracted the virus while in the facility, Steve Labrum, with the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The man — between the ages of 18 and 60 — had been in the jail for more than four months before being released March 16, according to jail records and conversations with health department officials. He had no symptoms upon release. The man said he visited friends in Salt Lake County on March 23, and upon returning to Uintah County, was seen by a healthcare provider for symptoms associated with COVID-19 on March 25.

“TriCounty Health officials are confident the individual would have shown symptoms before March 24, if he had been exposed to COVID-19 in the jail,” Labrum said in the release.

The man is now quarantined and recovering at home, said Labrum adding that the sheriff’s office has taken several proactive steps to mitigate the risk of exposure for staff and inmates.

“With the extra room the jail has, we have been able to segregate housing units so there is no cross-contamination or interaction between housing units,” he said. “Volunteers have not been allowed in the jail since March 13, 2020. On March 14, 2020 any inmate movement between housing units stopped completely.”

In addition, inmate in the same housing unit as the man are being checked twice daily for a fever or other symptoms.

Grand County also had its first positive COVID-19 case, a woman between the ages of 25 and 45 believed to have contracted the coronavirus through her interactions with people who live outside of the state.

“This may be our first confirmed case, but we do not assume it is our only case,” said Bradon Bradfod, this area health department’s health officer. “We would like to remind the community that we need to act and go through our days as if we already have the virus moving through our community. By behaving this way, we limit our exposure to others, thus decreasing the chance for community spread of disease.”

The woman and those she has known to be in contact with have been asked to remain in their homes for at least the next 14 days.

Moab, the Grand County’s main city, has banned visitors from booking hotel rooms and the federal government closed access to Arches and Canyonlands on Saturday.

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