The state of Utah added ten more confirmed deaths from COVID-19 on July 14, adding to the growing evidence of a surge of positive cases in the state. Locally, Grand County has reported its first hospitalization of a resident as cases grew to 28 positives, with 18 people considered recovered.

Positive cases of COVID-19 have increased to an average of 636 per day over the last seven days, which state public health officials report cannot be attributed to increased testing. Utah has now recorded 226 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and nearly 30,500 confirmed cases since the outbreak’s beginning.

Grand County cases rise

The Southeast Utah Health Department reported the first hospitalization of a Grand County resident on July 13. Moab Regional Hospital authorities reported that the patient was intubated and then transferred to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, CO.

At the Moab City Council meeting on July 14, Southeast Utah Health Department Director Bradon Bradford addressed the hospitalization, noting that the patient was in an high-risk demographic.

SEUHD oversees Grand, Emery and Carbon counties. Bradford said that, through contact tracing, SEUHD officials believed the increase in Grand County cases could largely be traced back to one household and one event.

“While certainly, it’s eye-opening when we have those, it’s also reassuring that we know where the transmission came from. It’s not just random community transmission,” Bradford said.

Previously, Moab Regional Hospital officials had publicly stated that local test results were “strongly suggestive of community transmission.” In a conversation with the Moab Sun News, MRH Marketing and Community Relations director Christy Calvin said this apparent discrepancy is likely due to the health department’s strict definition of “community transmission.”

As the health department, not the hospital, has the responsibility to do contact tracing after each positive test, Calvin indicated that the hospital would defer to SEUHD on the issue.

“We follow their lead,” Calvin said.

Health department officials are continuing to trace contacts of known positive cases. Bradford said that if contacts are members of the same household as the infected person, officials urge them to self-quarantine for 14 days; if they are not in the same household, however, Bradford said the Health Department is less emphatic in that suggestion.

Making sense of data

After questions from the public and elected officials on the information provided on the SEUHD COVID-19 dashboard, Bradford reported that the department is revising how case data is displayed.

The revised dashboard allows users to view a breakdown of regional positive tests by county, age and gender as well as active and recovered cases. Bradford said his department is also working on a way to report positive tests of people who received a test in Grand County but have left the county by the time their test results arrive.

These positive tests from tourists or travelers had been a point of concern voiced by community members at past meetings.

Bradford also clarified the meaning of “recovered” in the health department’s statistics at the July 14 city council meeting.

“Having no symptoms is a key part of being recovered,” he explained.

According to the department, a patient can be considered “recovered” as early as ten days from the date of onset of their symptoms, as long as they’ve had no symptoms for the last three of those days.

Alternatively, a person with no symptoms would be considered recovered 14 days from their date of diagnosis, assuming they never display any symptoms. A recovered person is not contagious, he said.

Testing

Bradford said a mobile COVID-19 testing event held on July 14 was able to test between 160 and 170 individuals. Bradford said he believed around 20% of Grand County’s population has been tested so far, “a fairly significant number.”

The testing event was held in partnership with the Utah Public Health Lab, the Utah National Guard and the Moab City Public Works Department.

SEUHD plans to offer free mobile testing again, “hopefully before school starts,” said Bradford.

Those who show any symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested at Moab Regional Hospital. The tests are covered by insurance and there is no charge for those without health insurance.

Tests for COVID-19 are now recommended for a those with one or more from the following list of symptoms: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pressure, headache, gastrointestinal distress (vomiting or diarrhea), sore throat, muscle aches, loss of taste of smell, frequent sneezing, and/or allergy symptoms.

To talk to a nurse about symptoms and schedule a test, call the Moab Regional Hospital COVID-19 hotline at 435-719-3998.