OGDEN — The COVID-19 case count keeps spiking in Weber and Davis counties, as in Utah as a whole, and local health officials point to people increasingly mixing in public and with others at work.
“We feel this is because of larger gatherings and increased activities,” said Weber-Morgan Health Department Director Brian Bennion. The new case count in Weber and Morgan counties for the week ending last Saturday totaled 132, up from 120 the week before and a new high. The figure reached 204 in Davis County, up from 109 the week before and also a new high.
Most cases stem from worksite and household contacts, Bennion said, but he also noted “a couple” of incidents related to team sports, though it’s not clear they resulted in new occurrences. “For health privacy reasons, we will not be commenting further except to say that public health has contacted those involved to let them know they have been exposed and that they should monitor their symptoms and stay home for 14 days,” Bennion said.
Trevor Warner, spokesman in the Davis County Health Department, attributed the increased case count to exhaustion among the public in taking precautions to guard against COVID-19’s spread. “People are tired of living cautiously and they want to get back to living their normal lives and kids want to get back to playing sports and hanging out with friends. All of the large gatherings we are seeing are proving to be quite problematic because people are not following the guidelines we have issued about wearing masks and keeping a physical distance from each other,” Warner said.
Angela Dunn, the Utah state epidemiologist, warned in a memo publicly released Monday that the state may need to reimpose certain restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus given rising case numbers. If numbers don’t level off, she cautioned, the state may have to move from the “low risk” or yellow phase of COVID-19 guidelines to the “moderate risk” or orange phase. Similarly, Warner warned things will get worse unless the public pays closer attention to recommendations about using face coverings and keeping physically distant from others to guard against COVID-19.
“We are in the ‘acceleration phase’ of this virus and if people don’t follow these guidelines, we’re expecting the numbers to keep increasing,” Warner said.
In Weber County, the new case count has increased from 19 for the week ending May 2 to 96 for the week ending June 6 to the latest weekly figure through Saturday of 132. In Davis County, the new cases have increased from 26 for the week ending May 2 to 81 for the week ending June 6 to 204 for the week ending Saturday.
The rising numbers notwithstanding, reps from the MountainStar and Intermountain Healthcare systems don’t report that things are getting out of control. MountainStar runs the Ogden Regional Medical Center in Washington Terrace while Intermountain runs McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden and Layton Hospital in Layton.
“McKay-Dee and Layton hospitals have seen increased hospitalizations over the past three weeks, but it is at a manageable level. Intermountain Healthcare has been able to triage cases as a system where we assure that no one hospital is being overwhelmed right now,” said Brad Gillman, spokesperson for Intermountain, which operates several hospitals in Utah.
Even so, Dunn warned in the memo released Monday but written Friday that Intermountain could run out of conventional capacity in the intensive-care units at some hospitals in July.
MountainStar spokesperson Craig Bielik said the hospitalization rate at its facilities for COVID-19 patients remains fairly low. What’s more, its hospitals are prepared, with plenty of protective gear for healthcare workers and the needed expertise.
“MountainStar hospitals, as well as Ogden Regional Medical Center, are currently not seeing a large influx of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in our care,” Bielik said. If such an increase were to happen, he went on, its facilities are prepared.
The total coronavirus case count in Weber and Morgan counties reached 684 Monday with 10 deaths, while Davis County reported 877 cases and five deaths. The Utah Department of Health reported 17,906 cases statewide with 158 deaths.
Through it all, the Davis health department and hospital officials reiterated their calls to the public to use face coverings, engage in frequent hand-washing and keep physically distant from others to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
“The advice to the public is the same as it’s been since the start of this pandemic — keep a distance from each other, wear masks in public/businesses if physically distancing isn’t possible, practice good hygiene (washing of hands, using hand sanitizer, etc.), stay home if you are feeling sick and take this virus seriously,” Warner said. “We are relying on people in our communities to help each other stay safe.”