“State of Utah: COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Record cases. Almost every county is a high transmission area. Hospitals are nearly overwhelmed,” read the alert. “By public health order, masks are required in high transmission areas. Social gatherings are limited to 10 or fewer.”
“Be careful!” it warned, alongside a link containing more information about the ever-worsening coronavirus surge.
The messages were sent beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday and remained active for 15 minutes.
Typically used for severe weather and AMBER Alerts, state and local officials are increasingly deploying these Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to warn of Covid-19 spikes as well. Through late September, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), local officials had sent the public than 400 such alerts.
“Despite the ongoing pandemic, there are a number of people who are not aware of the dire situation we find ourselves in,” state officials said. “As a result, the emergency alert was an effort to “make sure nearly everyone is aware of the serious nature of the pandemic.”
The alert came as the state hit a grim milestone, as Utah hits record highs in several Covid-19 measures, including number of new cases, 7-day case average, and test positivity percentage, the state data dashboard shows.
In a press conference on Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called the state’s situation “one of the worst outbreaks in the country.”
The state reported a record 2,281 new Covid-19 cases Friday, according to state data. Previously, its record high was 1,989 cases on October 22. Furthermore, its 7-day case average now sits at a record of 1,621.7 cases, and its percentage of positive tests is at a record 18.17% as of Friday. All of these barometers are steadily climbing.
Meanwhile, 72.5% of Utah’s ICU beds are occupied, along with 54% of its traditional beds, according to the state dashboard, meaning that hospitals are quickly running out of space for new patients.
CNN’s Jenn Selva contributed to this report.Read More
“Covid doesn’t care that it’s a holiday, and unfortunately covid is on the rise across the nation,” she said. “Now is not the time to let our guard down and say it’s the holiday and let’s be merry. I think we need to maintain our vigilance here.”
The coronavirus pandemic numbers have been going the wrong direction for more than a month, topping 80,000 newly confirmed infections daily across the country, with hospitalizations rising in more than three dozen states and deaths creeping upward. Now, the United States is barreling toward another inflection point: a holiday season dictated by the calendar and demanded by tradition.
The anticipated surge in interstate travel, family gatherings and indoor socializing is expected to facilitate the spread of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. This isn’t like the run-up to Memorial Day or Independence Day: Barbecues outdoors, or pool parties, aren’t on the itinerary of many people.
The fall and winter holidays are homey by nature. Respiratory viruses thrive in dry, warm indoor conditions in which people crowd together. The statistical peak of flu season typically comes close on the heels of Christmas and New Year’s. Colder weather is already driving people indoors.
The government’s top doctors have said they believe the recent national spike in infections has largely been driven by household transmission. Superspreader events have gotten a lot of attention, but it’s the prosaic meals with family and friends that are driving up caseloads.
This trend presents people with difficult individual choices — and those choices carry societal consequences. Epidemiologists look at the broad effect of a contagion, not simply the effects on individuals. Thanksgiving, for example, is an extremely busy travel period in America. The coronavirus exploits travelers to spread in places where it has been sparse or absent.
“I am nervous about Thanksgiving,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Irvine. “I’m nervous because I know what happens when you multiply the risks by millions of households.”
The scientists are not telling people to cancel their holiday plans, necessarily. But they are urging people to think of alternative ways to celebrate. They do not say it explicitly, but they are encouraging a kind of rationing of togetherness.
“This is not the cold. This is not the flu. This is much worse. People are dying. Our well-being as a country depends on us getting this thing under control,” Alexander said.
Public-health officials doubt an elegant way exists to finesse the 2020 pandemic-shrouded holidays with minimal disruption — for example, by working through a checklist of best practices that include timely testing, scrupulous social distancing and disciplined mask-wearing. Instead, people will need to make serious adjustments as they calculate the risks and rewards of holiday gatherings.
“There’s no easy answer here, just like with everything else. It’s not about safe or unsafe. It’s about figuring out how to balance various risks and keeping risks as low as possible,” Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus said.
“This is not a