Daily COVID-19 update: Thursday, March 26, 2020

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Today’s edition of COVID-19 includes a vocabulary lesson, statistics on the reduction of miles we’re driving, and some good news about the non-spike of positive tests Utah is reporting. Here are my 18 takeaways from this alternate universe we are getting used to.

Stay At Home Vs. Shelter In Place

These two phrases have been used interchangeably (including in my previous posts), but they actually have different nuances. Let’s learn the difference together. Summit County has issued a “Stay At Home” order, which is technically more lenient than “Shelter in Place.” During Stay-At-Home, residents are allowed to go out for essential needs such as grocery shopping, banking and medical appointments. Public gatherings are prohibited. Public areas such as parks typically close. But residents are still allowed to exercise outside, work in the yard, go for drives, and play outdoors with the family. Residents can drive in and out of the county. The stricter “Shelter In Place” (which is NOT what Park City is experiencing) tells residents to stay inside their homes and avoid leaving if at all possible. Historically, this is used in times of hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The two terms will probably still be used interchangeably, but these are the definitions I’ve uncovered in my research.

Myths Busted

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez says there will be no police checkpoints and no house checks. Law enforcement will NOT be pulling people over to see if they are out for “essential” reasons. Residents are still allowed to leave the county. However, Summit County is asking that those of us who don’t live in Summit County avoid visiting the Park City area. “Please recreate in your own city/county until orders are lifted,” Sheriff Martinez said.

Statewide Order?

The state is having discussions daily about Stay-At-Home orders (so far only Summit County has issued this status within our state, as well as 22 states around the nation). “We don’t have plans in place to announce a stricter order other than to maintain social distancing,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist at the press conference for Utah Department of Health today.

Data

Good news! Utah’s rate of COVID-19 positives only increased by 16 percent in the past 24 hours. As of 1 p.m. today, the state is reporting 402 cases, based on 7,710 tests. “This is the third day in a row we’ve seen a decrease in our increase,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist. Translation: We have 56 more cases than we did yesterday, but the rate of growth is lower than it has been. (Think of bar chart that is NOT spiking … the growth curve is slight.) This is flying in the face of other states that have doubled their cases from day to day. However, the full story has yet to be told. We will know more in 14 days. “We are just finding out now about people who were likely infected two weeks ago,” Dr. Dunn said. “With a 14-day incubation period, we can’t put too much stock in our data at this point.” How many tests did Utah report on today? Less than 1,000. We have the capacity for 3X that amount. #headscratcher

Sad For Summit

Utah as a whole is seeing a 5 percent rate of positive tests, while Summit County’s rate of positive tests is 30-35 percent. The state and the CDC are providing support to this cluster of cases.

Recovery Is Going Well. We Think.

It’s difficult for the state to track recovery because 90 percent of COVID-19 cases are recovering at home without clinical care. We still have fortunately only had one death in the state.

Hospitalization

Our young population may be the reason we are holding steady at only 10 percent of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization, and only half of those patients requiring ICU care. Hurrah for being the baby capital of the world!

Ventilators

We have more ICU beds in the state than we do ventilators. Although we haven’t come close to maxing out on our capabilities as a state, Dr. Dunn said it’s anticipated that every state will reach full use of their ventilators and need more. She is working with Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and his committees to secure options for bed space should there be a surge on the health-care systems. In other states and in previous pandemics, convention centers and hotels have been established as pop-up hospitals as a way to ensure access to quality care throughout the outbreak.

Fast And Pray

President Russell M. Nelson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued a video invitation today to his members and beyond. “I invite you to join me in a worldwide fast to pray for relief from the physical, emotional and economic effects of this global pandemic. I invite members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with our many friends, to fast and pray this Sunday, March 29. Let us unite our faith to plead for physical, spiritual and other healing throughout the entire world.”

Let’s Not Have To Choose

One major concern in this pandemic is what happens when health-care workers and supplies are insufficient, and choices must be made as to how to prioritize care. We don’t want to have to decide whether to save a 60-year-old doctor OR a 25-year-old homeless woman. “We’re working hard to prevent the need to prioritize care,” Dr. Dunn said. “We talk about this regularly.”

Health-Care Workers

Dr. Dunn said our 402 positive cases do include some health-care workers. Some were exposed to coronavirus in their non-professional lives and some causes are unknown. “We haven’t identified any health-care worker who has cared for a known COVID-19 patient who has then tested positive,” Dr. Dunn said.

Fourteen Is The Magic Number

Dr. Dunn said 14 days is the quarantine period for someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 but doesn’t have symptoms. If the person hasn’t developed a sickness after 14 days, they will not develop it from that initial exposure.

Three Is The Other Magic Number

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, the person needs to self-isolate for 7 days. The person needs to be asymptomatic for three straight days to be released from isolation and be a non-threat to the public.

Less Car Time

Unacast is documenting the changes in transportation patterns since the onslaught of coronavirus in Utah. At www.unacast.com, we learn Utahns on average are down 24 percent in the average distance traveled in a day. Let’s get specific. Utah County is down 18 percent in distance traveled per day, while Salt Lake County has dropped 37 percent and Summit County (highest percentage of COVID-19 per capita in the state) has dropped 56 percent in daily distance traveled. Mother Earth is thanking us!

Coronavirus Vs. COVID-19

Which is it? Or are both correct? Here’s the deal. Coronavirus is a broader name for a family of viruses that includes COVID-19. This specific virus was first named “2019 novel coronavirus.” The name then became COVID-19, which is derived from “Co” and Vi” which are letters pulled from “coronavirus.” The “D” is for disease, and the 19 stands for 2019, the year the first cases were seen.

A Big Deal

In the Town Hall held tonight by Rep. John Curtis, he invited Dr. Andrew Pavia of the University of Utah to dispel myths and answer questions. The biggest myth is that this is no different than the flu or SARS. False. “Before this is over, we will see loved ones die,” Dr. Pavia said. He told us that worldwide more than half a million have been infected, and the United States has now surpassed China and Italy as having the most cases. “This is turning out to be worse than anything we anticipated.” In some ways, this is hard to understand because 80 percent of people who get the virus have mild symptoms and only 1 percent will die (this rate varies depending on which study and which day you are looking at). But if 30-50 percent of the population gets the virus, a 1 percent mortality rate is horrific and significant. “Nobody has had this virus, so nobody in the population has developed an immunity to it.” By contrast, SARS was more lethal but there were only 8,000 cases worldwide and it wasn’t as contagious because anyone who had it was in the ICU and not carrying the virus around their community.

Who Is Going To Pay For That?

The federal government has put together a $2 trillion stimulus package that is imperfect but robust. On the Town Hall, Rep. Curtis was asked who is going to pay for this stimulus package. Our country is already in debt, and now we’re pulling $2 trillion out of the federal government’s non-existent back pocket. Rep. Curtis answered, “One of the most frustrating things since coming to Congress 26 months ago is my inability to get my colleagues to see what we know so well in Utah — how to have a balanced budget and how to create a ‘Rainy Day’ fund.”

Call Your Bank

Rep. Curtis suggested that small business owners call their banks to get in their queue to take advantage of the stimulus plan. It will be a few days before banks are ready to process these loans/grants, but the money will flow quickly once the faucet gets turned on. The banks are incentivized to process loans — and they carry no risk. You can also find out more at Curtis.house.gov. (Rep. Curtis is also working on a bill that would sanction political leaders who withhold information on pandemics. “We believe the Chinese lost as much as three weeks by trying to cover this up at first,” he said.)

In summary, it feels like we’re living in a sci-fi novel. And it doesn’t look like this is a short story. But there are many “characters” in the plot working on the challenges and communicating with positivity.

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