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Officials Urge Utahns: Be Patient with COVID-19 Restrictions

State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn says state officials are taking a slow approach to easing restrictions such as social distancing and face masks to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kzewnon/Adobe Stock)
State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn says state officials are taking a slow approach to easing restrictions such as social distancing and face masks to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kzewnon/Adobe Stock)
May 14, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY -- Health officials say Utah is one of the states least affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is bringing some calls this week to ease restrictions.

Most of the state currently is under an orange alert, for moderate precautions, but some Utahns say the state should move to a yellow, or low, alert, in which guidelines for social distancing and the other precautions are eased.

Red is the highest alert and green the lowest.

Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, says while Utah is doing better than many other states, there is still a need for caution.

"It can be hard for individuals to understand why we're asking them to continue limiting their exposure to certain people and maintain social distancing practices when we aren't seeing those deaths and the disease at really high levels here in Utah," she states.

At a briefing Wednesday, Dunn announced that there were 188 new COVID-19 cases, for a total of 6,620 in Utah. Two new deaths were reported, for a total of 75.

In a recent study, Utah was ranked as the state where the population is least vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Dunn says much of that is due to Utah having a young population. But she adds that the state has now tested more than 156,000 Utahns and has a better picture of how the virus spreads.

"Our testing capacity and our ability to contact-trace every positive certainly helps," she states. "It's not surprising that we have a low vulnerable rate.

"However, we never want to put lives at risk unnecessarily for the sake of people being able to get back to normal."

Asked when Utah might change its alert status to green, which is designated as the new normal, Dunn said that will be contingent on reaching what is referred to as "herd immunity."

"We're not going to be able to prevent disease effectively until 60% to 80% of the population is immune to COVID-19," she explains. "And that happens one of two ways -- either people get infected or they get a vaccine."

Dunn says Utah officials are likely to ease restrictions, when possible, in various regions of the state based on statistics, instead of issuing statewide changes.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT