The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Summit County Health Department (SCHD) announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Summit County, the third total in Utah. It was only a matter of time before the novel coronavirus spreading across the globe made its way to Summit County, and it just so happened to emerge on the same day the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared a pandemic caused by the viral disease. Nevertheless, health officials are urging residents and visitors to remain calm and take basic precautions—such as regular hand washing, covering one’s mouth with an elbow while coughing and staying home from work or school when sick— as one would typically do during flu season.
The patient in this case is a male Summit County resident less than 60 years old who had recently traveled to Europe and had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 during that travel. The patient is currently recovering at home while UDOH and SCHD work to track and notify anyone who may have been in close contact with the case.
“Residents and visitors of Summit County can be assured that we’ve expected and prepared for COVID-19 in our community. The system of identifying, reporting, and now isolating the case has worked flawlessly,” said Dr. Rich Bullough, director of the SCHD. “In partnership with the UDOH and our local healthcare network, the Summit County Health Department will continue our response to COVID-19 in Summit County and will continue to communicate openly and honestly with the public. We encourage residents and visitors not to be alarmed, but to take regular but important preventive health precautions such as correct handwashing and staying home when sick.”
The patient initially contacted his health care provider by calling through Virtual Urgent Care, which allowed University of Utah clinicians to prepare for the patient’s visit and collect a sample without him entering the building and possibly exposing others. “The system worked just as we hoped it would. We continue to emphasize the importance of calling your provider first if you suspect you may have COVID-19,” said Dr. Thomas Miller, Chief Medical Officer, University of Utah Health. “This enables us to help control the spread of this virus and better protect our patients, our staff and the community.”
It remains to be seen how disruptive the spread of coronavirus will be to business as usual Summit County. End of ski season tourism numbers in Park City are already slipping, though moderate declines this late in the year aren’t suspected to be too impactful on the town’s economy. Much of the area’s workforce, however, is made up of hourly employment, meaning disruptions in local business operations could have significant consequences for individuals. So far, school and work closures haven’t been put in place, and public gatherings haven’t yet been canceled, though IHC Hospital in Park City has limited hospital visitation in response to the outbreak. Hopefully coronavirus is just making a quick spring break visit to Summit County like so many skiers this time of year.
Uncertainty about the spread of coronavirus in Summit County has led people to pick clean grocery store shelves in search of hand sanitizer, soap, disinfecting wipes and toilet paper. Rather than hoarding these items like some kind of low-rent doomsday prepper, I suggest buying enough non-perishable food for a few days and investing in a bidet—they’re probably easier to find than TP right now anyway.
State, County and Local officials are diligently preparing for the evolving situation and have pledged to be open and honest in their public communications about COVID-19 and the community response. Times like this call for well reasoned action and a chill pill. Be on the lookout for disinformation spreading across social media and don’t contribute to the panic. Visit the Summit County Health Department website for updates, wash your hands, and CALL your healthcare provider if you’re worried you’re exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.