(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and the Summit County Health Department (SCHD) today announced a new case of COVID-19 that is the first instance of community spread of the disease in Utah.
Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. In the Summit County case, the patient had no history of travel and no known contact with any person who has been confirmed to have COVID-19.
“This is the first case of community transmission in Utah, and it reinforces the importance of all the community mitigation efforts we’ve been talking about for the past several weeks,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist for the UDOH. “Everyone needs to continue to do their part: Stay home if you are sick, keep your kids home if they are sick, and practice good hygiene to avoid sharing your germs to others.”
The patient is a male Summit County resident, he is between the ages of 18 and 60, and is currently home recovering from his illness. The patient is an employee at the Spur Bar and Grill, and did report to work while he was symptomatic. Public health officials have interviewed the patient and believe the biggest potential risk is to his co-workers. The man’s job at the bar did not require him to interact for extended periods of time with customers.
“The patient’s employer has been extremely cooperative, and willingly closed last night to conduct a thorough cleaning of the establishment,” said Dr. Rich Bullough, executive director of the SCHD. “We have identified the case’s co-workers and are working to contact and interview all of them. While we don’t believe there is a high risk to patrons of the bar, if you have visited the Spur Bar and Grill since March 6 you should monitor yourself for symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath.”
The UDOH and the SCHD are working to identify other individuals who may have come into close contact with the patient while he was symptomatic. These individuals will be monitored by public health for fever and respiratory symptoms.
“Residents of Summit County should be assured that we are doing everything within our means to protect their health,” said Thomas C. Fisher, Summit County Manager. “On Thursday, Dr. Bullough and I signed local emergency declarations in anticipation of the very situation we have announced this morning. These declarations were not made lightly and will allow us to utilize emergency resources to combat the spread of COVID-19. Summit County, our municipalities and our other community partners are prepared and ready.”
Public health officials are still asking the public to avoid going to hospitals and clinics for COVID-19 testing if symptoms aren’t present. Instead, use telehealth or call your healthcare provider to find out if testing is necessary so that hospitals, clinics, and ERs and not overloaded. Health care facilities report the high volume of visits from healthy people is affecting their ability to provide care for those truly in need.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to what someone may be experiencing as the result of seasonal influenza – namely a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. These symptoms on their own are not worrisome and should not cause alarm. But if someone exhibits these symptoms who has recently traveled to areas with ongoing transmission of COVID-19 or has been in close contact with a known positive case, that individual should notify their health care provider by telephone, who will coordinate the appropriate next steps.
There is currently no vaccine or antiviral treatment available for coronavirus and it is flu and respiratory disease season.