After a lull in recorded positive cases of COVID-19 in Grand County, the Southeast Utah Health Department reported a sudden uptick since Oct. 4, impacting staff within local government and health agencies as well as students within the Grand County School District.
As of Oct. 7, health department officials are reporting that Grand County currently has nine documented cases of residents with active COVID-19. In press releases, SEUHD also added six additional cases that were considered “recovered” due to the length of time since the onset of symptoms.
“Right now as far as we have discovered, about half of the cases that we've seen in the last few days are related,” said Bradford, meaning that the cases are from the same household groups. “The others do not yet have a defined source, but the trend seems to be some connection to individuals that have been positive on the Wasatch Front,” Bradford said.
Northern Utah and the Wasatch Front continue to report high rates of COVID-19 test positives.
Three of the newly reported cases were related to the Grand County School District. In a statement to parents, the district described the three cases as a high school student who “has been quarantined and has been cleared to return to school,” a staff member at Helen M. Knight Elementary School who is currently quarantined and an elementary school student who is also reportedly quarantined.
”In every case, the parents of each student in the impacted classes [have] been notified,” the district’s statement reads.
While the increase in cases is concerning, SEUHD Director Bradon Bradford says that the school is not yet considering moving back to virtual learning, a change that would be triggered by 15 active cases in a school according to guidance.
“In our area, with smaller schools, the discussion would likely happen before we reached 15. But we do have the advantage of knowing how much our cases are connected and whether or not there is rampant school spread or if it can be tracked to specific events,” said Bradford. “Ultimately the school district makes the decision to move to virtual, with consultation from the health department.”
The positive test of a Moab City staff member prompted the temporary closure of City Hall for cleaning, announced by staff in a Facebook post.
County Commissioner Gabriel Woyteck reported at a Grand County Commission meeting on Oct. 6 that a staff member of the Canyonlands Care Center had tested positive but that “quick action” had prevented any spread in the Care Center.
"I think it’s a great testament to the good work being done over there to protect those residents,” said Woytek, who also commented that the lower rates of COVID-19 transmission in Grand County as compared with neighboring Carbon and Emery counties was likely due to mask-wearing requirements.
Carbon County has recorded 151 cases of which 22 are considered currently active; Emery County has recorded 52 positive tests of which 12 people are considered active. Neither county has a mandatory mask-wearing mandate.
Moab Regional Hospital’s Cheif Medical Officer Dr. Dylan Cole urged residents to stay alert.
“In the past two weeks our numbers have started to climb,” said Cole. “I am highly concerned that we are about to see significant community spread.”
”Help keep our community safe by social distancing whenever possible, wearing a mask when out in public, and washing hands often,” Cole reminded residents.
The state of Utah has reported over 1,000 new confirmed cases every day in October until Oct. 6, when 716 cases were reported. The Utah Department of Health estimates there are 20,417 active cases of the disease in Utah currently, the highest such estimate so far.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall requested state approval for her city to move back to “orange” or moderate restriction level due to the increased spread of the disease. Orem and Provo moved back to orange restrictions last month.
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.