The woman was a St. George resident, under the age of 60 who had “significant” underlying medical conditions, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said Friday during a news conference. She had been hospitalized for two days prior to her death at an undisclosed Salt Lake City hospital. No further details were released to protect her family’s privacy.
Additionally, Dunn said San Juan and Tri counties reported their first COVID-19 cases today, bringing the state’s tally to 481 confirmed instances (78 more since yesterday), resulting from 9,000-plus administered tests in all major private and public laboratories.
Dunn said to expect case numbers to “start jumping” due to increased hospital capacity and additional drive-up clinics opened earlier this week.
Less than two minutes into the briefing, the conversion veered to grocery store employee protective measures, an impending stay-at-home order and newly revised 911 protocol.
Jack Horton Meersman, a compliance officer at Gold Cross Ambulance, was there representing the Utah EMS Committee.
“We want the public to know that we are here to assist and respond to medical needs throughout the state of Utah, but we do want to minimize the number of calls for COVID-19-related symptoms,” he said. Meersman added that “the recent spike in COVID-19-related 911 calls was “overwhelming our service providers statewide.”
Meersman said those who do call and get a first responder dispatched to their home, should be ready for an experience that “look[s] different than it usually does.” Mainly, a lone responder will approach the caller’s door to specifically ask about COVID-19 symptoms before others follow. Based on the answer, EMTs would then enter the home as-is or don personal protective equipment. “That is a big change from our normal operating procedures,” Meersman pointed out.
He said other protocols—including referring people to secondary and tertiary providers before transporting them to the ER—would vary by county jurisdiction.
In regards to an impending statewide stay-at-home order, Dunn said, “those discussions are very fluid and ongoing,” and added that, “they’re happening between some officials and the state government, and we will expect any announcement on that to come from the governor’s office.”
Asked about on grocery store employee protection, Dunn said there were no state-specific guidelines, though she applauded grocers’ designation of a special hour set aside for senior citizen shoppers, and the addition of Plexiglass enclosures around cash registers.
“Those measures will definitely help keep employees safe and allow our grocery stores to keep cooperating in a safe environment during this time,” she noted.