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© Rick Bowmer
(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wears a mask during a news conference on April 15, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Today I will be joined by Dr. Angela Dunn, State Epidemiologist; Dr. Tom Miller, Chief Medical Officer, University of Utah Health; and Lexi Cunningham, Director, Utah State Superintendents Association for a COVID-19 update. En español aquí: https://www.facebook.com/Univision32/

Posted by Governor Gary Herbert on Thursday, July 16, 2020

Utah reported one new death and 954 new positive tests for COVID-19 Thursday, but not all of them are new cases, health officials cautioned.

“I need to provide a lot of context to these numbers,” state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said at a Thursday news conference, explaining the state has been “reviewing the antigen case results for accuracy” and added past cases to the day’s total.

The Utah Department of Health released a statement about how the state counted the additional cases.

Of that 954 total, 251 are the result of antigen testing at some labs in Utah since late June. The agency will now include the results of antigen cases, both positive and negative, in the daily case count, after reviewing the accuracy of antigen test data.

Another 50 cases diagnosed earlier in July had been delayed in electronic reporting. Another 246 cases were diagnosed earlier this week, and were added to the total case count Thursday. The UDOH dashboard’s charts will reflect when those cases were first reported, Dunn said.

The new and adjusted numbers mean 31,845 Utahns have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The rolling seven-day average is at 619 cases per day, Dunn said Thursday at the state’s weekly media briefing. The rolling average for positive lab tests is at 10.4%.

Dr. Tom Miller, chief medical officer at University of Utah Health, warned at the news conference that Utah’s “hospitals are at near capacity,” asking residents to wear masks.

“Masks are our medicine right now, until we have an effective treatment or a vaccine,” he said. He added: “Let’s not shame or blame,” urging people to be positive examples by wearing their masks.

Gov. Gary Herbert echoed that message: “We do not want to overwhelm the medical system, the hospital beds,” Herbert said. “… My plea is for all of us to do what you can. Do your part, and we’ll all get through this.”

Herbert said he was “encouraged” that major retailers, including Walmart and Smith’s Food and Drug (as part of the Kroger conglomerate), are requiring customers to mask up before entering their stores.

He repeated his desire not to require mask-wearing through government mandate. “Do it because you have respect and love for your neighbor,” Herbert said. “Doing it for the right reasons is the right way to do it.”

In counties that have mandated mask-wearing, including Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties, “we’re certainly seeing face-mask compliance,” Herbert said.

He later added: “I’d much rather do this on a voluntary basis. I would hope people would do this because they love their neighbor, not because they’d be fined if they show up at the office without their mask on.”

When asked about studies saying recent street protests have not been found to be spreaders of the virus, Miller said, “when people are outside, and with some distance, there’s much less risk of spreading the virus” Indoors, he added, are “where the virus moves from person to person.”

One more Utahn — a Salt Lake County woman, between the ages of 65 and 84, who had been living in a long-term care facility — has died from COVID-19, UDOH also reported Thursday. She brings the state’s overall death toll to 234 people.

Another 45 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in a 24-hour period, the state reported. There were 199 people in the hospital with the virus as of Wednesday. (Hospitalization statistics are a day behind case counts.) Since the pandemic began, 1,956 people have been hospitalized because of COVID-19 in Utah.

Another 7,448 tests were administered since the day before, UDOH reported. So far, 439,528 tests have been given in Utah.

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