Northern Utah has experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases since most of the state moved to “yellow” status on May 16.

In Davis County, the increase in numbers was significant.

According to information shared with the Standard-Examiner by the Davis County Health Department, that county saw a plateau in the average number of weekly cases for five weeks, from April 12 to May 16, the first day of yellow status. Four times during that span, the number of cases decreased from the week before.

The week following the county’s move to yellow status, from May 17-23, brought a 33% increase in the weekly average number of cases. The previous five weeks had fewer than 40 positive cases per week, while May 17-23 exceeded 40 cases.

“What has changed significantly from red to orange to yellow (status) is the number of close contacts for each case,” according to a statement from the department. “We believe this is because residents are out and about, returning to work, etc.”

“Some cases have dozens of close contacts ... that need to be notified (because they were exposed),” the statement continues. “The complexity of each disease investigation has greatly increased and the amount of staff time dedicated to reaching out to each and every person who had a potential exposure is growing.”

Spread among members of the same household “continues to be common,” the departments says. The county is also seeing an increase in exposures and clusters of cases connected to worksites, it says.

Department leaders reminded workplaces that employees need to avoid close contact and wear masks if employers are closer than 6 feet apart.

“With recommended precautions in place, businesses can reduce the number of employees who may be excluded from work and required to quarantine,” the department said.

Interestingly, Weber-Morgan’s number of cases from May 17-23 — 31 positive tests — was lower than the prior week, when 37 in the health district tested positive.

“We can attribute some of the increase to an outbreak at a care facility that began just before the switch to ‘yellow’ on May 16,” said Brian Bennion, executive director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, in an email. “That particular outbreak shows the toll this virus can take on our high-risk populations and it’s imperative that we continue to protect them.”

However, the 31 cases from May 17-23 are still slightly higher than the five weeks prior to the “spike” week leading up to May 16.

On May 22, two additional deaths were reported in Weber County, according to COVID-19 data released Wednesday by the Utah Department of Health. Both were women, one above the age of 85 and the other between the ages of 60 and 85, according to the released data. The two women were also residents of a long-term care facility, the health department said.

It is likely they were residents of Heritage Park Healthcare and Rehabilitative Services in Roy, as that facility is the only long-term care facility in Weber County included on the state’s list of facilities with active COVID-19 outbreaks. This list and a map of their locations are available at coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts.

The Weber-Morgan department expects more hot spots or spikes as the Utah economy reopens, Bennion said. As a result, the department has expanded its capacity for contact tracing and active monitoring of people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

However, the department is relying on the compliance of community members with public health recommendations, he said.

“Our success depends on the actions of each individual to continue to take precautions such as social distancing, face coverings, acting quickly to get tested if you become ill, self-isolating and staying home when you are ill, to expose as few people as possible to the virus,” Bennion said.

Contact reporter Megan Olsen at molsen@standard.net or 801-625-4227. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganAOlsen.

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