SALT LAKE CITY — At least another 10 Utahns have died of COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 260, according to a tally reported by the Utah Department of Health on Wednesday.

© Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Gov. Gary Herbert walks to the podium to take questions during a press briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.

One death listed Tuesday was removed from Utah’s total death tally while being further investigated by the Office of the Medical Examiner to determine if COVID-19 “actually caused the death of that individual,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said in a press briefing.

“For those who lost loved ones, we mourn with you, we love you, we’re sorry, for this unique situation,” Gov. Gary Herbert said, “and we need to do better as a state and as a community to find ways to solve this particular problem.”

The Utah Department of Health reported an increase of 566 cases of COVID-19 in Utah on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections statewide since the pandemic began to 35,578.

“We need to continue to push to get our case counts lower, and we know how to do this,” Dunn said, urging all Utahns to social distance and wear masks in public, stay home when sick and use good hand hygiene. “If we do these things, we will continue to have the confidence we need to open up schools safely, engage in our economy, preserve our hospital capacity and keep our community safe.”

The seven-day average number of new cases is 627 per day, and the average positive rate of tests is 9.5%. Currently, 197 patients are receiving hospital treatment for the novel coronavirus, with the state’s total number of people needing hospital treatment at 2,135 since the pandemic hit Utah.

© Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Gov. Gary Herbert and state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn arrive for a press briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.

Dunn said Utah has seen some “really positive trends” in the state’s COVID-19 data over the past week.

“Even though our cases are still high, our hospitalization rate has been decreasing,” Dunn said. “We’ve seen only a 2% increase in our active hospitalizations in the past 14 days, compared to the previous two weeks. And our overall hospitalization rate is now at 6%.”

Dunn said they are also beginning to “see evidence of a plateau followed by a decrease in total statewide cases every day.” That trend, she said, started around July 10, “in part due to the large decreases we’re seeing in Salt Lake County cases every single day.”

July 10 is exactly two weeks after Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson implemented a mask mandate. Since that date, the county’s daily case counts have for the most part remained under 300. Before that, they had reached into the high-300s and even surpassed 400.

Wilson held her own news conference later Wednesday afternoon to discuss data that shows her mask mandate has helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in Utah’s most population-dense county.

“Today, we’re sharing data that indicates that face coverings and other interventions implemented by Salt Lake County are having a positive impact,” Wilson said. “These actions are saving lives, protecting health, and stabilizing the spread of COVID-19 cases here in Salt Lake County. And, accordingly, we’re seeing economic relief from these actions.”

The data shows Salt Lake County’s overall COVID-19 cases dropped to about 40% of the state’s total of COVID-19 cases. Prior to the mayor’s mask mandate, the county accounted for upward of 60% of the state’s overall COVID-19 cases.

“I really believe leadership is about action at the right times,” Wilson said, thanking Herbert for allowing her mask mandate to be implemented.

But she also again called on Herbert to enact a statewide mask mandate now, rather than later.

“I do think a requirement makes a difference,” the mayor said. “The data shows the stabilization and even a decline for Salt Lake County right now. For those reasons, and as a parent, I would encourage (Herbert) to expedite his timeline to enact a statewide requirement now.”

Herbert in Wednesday’s press briefing responded to multiple questions about his unwillingness to issue a statewide mask mandate, and reiterated he has been a supporter of Utahns wearing masks voluntarily.

When asked whether Salt Lake County’s data would change his mind, Herbert did not say whether it would.

Even though Herbert said the science has been “accumulating” to support mask wearing, the governor said “we’ll have to wait and see. I’m not ready to say that’s the absolute cause and effect of the reduction in Salt Lake County.” He said while he doesn’t think it’s “hurt the cause,” he said there could be other factors at play.

However, the governor said a statewide mask mandate is still a possible tool. He also said a business mask mandate could be a possible option, adding that the Salt Lake Chamber and business community “like” that approach.

“So we’ll be counseling with our medical advisers, our scientific people, looking at the data, certainly we’ll have input from the business community, too, in a balanced approach,” Herbert said. “So we’ll wait and see what the data informs us by Aug. 1 and decide what to do.”

He urged Utahns as they head into the Pioneer Day weekend to wear masks if they are seeing family and to gather outdoors.

“This weekend when I’m going to be with my family, I can tell you I will be wearing my mask,” the governor said. “I think that’s showing respect for my family members and my loved ones and makes them feel more comfortable, too. All of us should be doing it.”

Herbert urged Utahns to read a recent BYU study that found masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I believe the science is virtually unanimous, it’s very clear, that wearing a mask will help keep people who have the virus but aren’t showing the symptoms from spreading it to others,” Herbert said, urging Utahns to “be wise, wear a mask and social distance and wash your hands.”

Daily numbers

The 5,959 test results recorded Wednesday bring the state’s lab test total to 569,107 involving 481,402 people.

Of the 10 new deaths reported Wednesday, five were Salt Lake County men, one between the age of 65-84 who was hospitalized at the time of death and was a resident in a long-term care facility; one between 45-64 who was hospitalized at time of death; one between 65-84 who was not hospitalized at time of death and was a long-term care facility resident; a man between the age of 15-24 who was not hospitalized at the time of death, and a man who was between 65-84, not hospitalized at time of death.

Two were Salt Lake County women, one other than 85 who was not hospitalized at time of death and was a long term care facility resident, and one between 65-84 who was hospitalized at time of death.

One was a Davis County woman who was between 65-84, and was not hospitalized at time of death. One was a Sevier County woman, between 45-64, not hospitalized at time of death and was a long term care facility resident. And one was a Weber County man, between 65-84 who was hospitalized at time of death in a long-term care facility.

The number of cases considered recovered after passing the three-week point since their diagnoses stands at 22,532.

The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:

Salt Lake County, 17,123; 1,132 hospitalized; 145 deaths. Utah County, 6,659; 314 hospitalized; 31 deaths. Southwest Utah, 2,563; 139 hospitalized; 21 deaths. Davis County, 2,468; 145 hospitalized; 9 deaths. Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 1,978; 77 hospitalized; 5 deaths. Weber-Morgan, 2,149; 136 hospitalized; 24 deaths. Summit County, 645; 51 hospitalized; 1 death. San Juan County, 550; 72 hospitalized; 19 deaths. Wasatch County, 497; 20 hospitalized; 4 deaths. Tooele County, 448; 19 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Central Utah, 312; 19 hospitalized; 1 death. TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 123; 8 hospitalized; 0 deaths. Southeast Utah, 63; 3 hospitalized; 0 deaths

This story will be updated.

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