Utah governor reopens dental offices and surgery centers while unveiling new COVID-19 tracking app

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during the daily COVID-19 media briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert announced that dental offices can immediately reopen and elective surgeries can resume throughout the state. The change in restrictions came as officials also previewed a new smartphone app, developed to help users know if they come in contact with anyone who has the coronavirus.

Gov. Herbert said the state is making significant headway against the virus as citizens cooperate with healthcare officials. The loosening of health restrictions for dentists and elective surgeons is a small step as part of the state’s phased approach.

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during the daily COVID-19 media briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. A poster displaying how the Healthy Together app will use location tracking for COVID-19 contact tracing is on display in the foreground.

“What this means is,” stated Gov. Herbert, “for those doctors, dentists, and others that are concerned about what they can do today that they couldn’t do when the coronavirus hit, the answer is, you can perform really about any procedure that you were doing before, with some safety protocols and precautions in place. So, it will be close to business as usual before, with some safety precautions and protocols that need to be in place.”

The order requires a patient’s temperature to be taken before entering into a healthcare facility. Only one visitor can attend with the patient. Everyone will be required to wear a mask, except for when a procedure is being done. Toys and magazines will also be removed from waiting rooms, and people will be discouraged from congregating.

Gov. Herbert explained additional precautions for patients who are having elective procedures. The more robust requirements apply to hospitals and surgery centers.

“It will include testing for COVID-19 prior to having any kind of surgery. Even though you may not have had it, you are going to be tested for it, to make sure that if you go into surgery that you don’t have it.”

Wednesday’s press conference was held as the Utah Department of Health confirmed 149 new cases of COVID-19 during the past 24 hours, a 4.5 percent growth rate. The report showed 3,445 total cases within the state, resulting in 288 hospitalizations throughout the outbreak. There was also two more deaths reported, bringing the total number of fatalities to 34. The two victims were both over the age of 85.

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during the daily COVID-19 media briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Gov. Herbert said his announcement doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. He and other officials with the Utah Coronavirus Task Force will continue to monitor the number of cases closely and make adjustments if needed.

Data is what is driving us. It’s not fear. It is not politics. We’re seeing both of those out in the marketplace today. We are being driven by data and trying to find that right balance point to do what we do. It is a responsible and commonsense approach that we have taken.”

As part of the press conference at the Utah State Capitol, officials unveiled a new smart phone app called Healthy Together. It provides information about symptoms and testing locations.

More importantly, Gov. Herbert explained that the app can voluntarily track a person’s movements and contact with others. Health officials can then use the data for contact tracing, to alert a user if they have come in contact with an infected individual.

“What happens is, once you have the app, it tracks where you go and if you happen to bump into somebody that has COVID-19, you don’t know it and they don’t know it but eventually the database that the app is attached to will give an alert. So if somebody has COVID-19, it can actually go back and trace who you bumped into and tell you that you might have been exposed at a certain location and you should be tested.”

The app is free to download in the Google Play and Apple stores. The use of the app is strictly opt-in and voluntary. Users own their location data and can delete it at any time.

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  • Logan Concrete April 22, 2020 at 8:29 pm Reply

    We never closed! If you need a new concrete driveway or patio call Logan Concrete today.

    • S April 23, 2020 at 10:19 am Reply

      Not a place for advertising………..really?!?

  • Deja April 24, 2020 at 2:10 am Reply

    Really? Madatory testing for surgery and mandatory temperature taking to see a dentist? Ridiculous. If I wish to get tested for this mild flu, I will get tested. NOT because someone tells me to. I guess I won’t be visiting a dentist anytime too soon. I do not consent to mandatory temperature taking, either!! These measures are absolutely unacceptable to me to need to be taking. All of this hype over a mild cold needs to end. Our economy SHOULD NEVER have shut down for such minuscule numbers!!! Social distancing is a farce and I will not be participating in such nonsense nor will I wear a mask in public!!!

    • Vue April 26, 2020 at 6:26 am Reply

      Dentists are happy to not serve you!

      • Nmonsato April 27, 2020 at 8:14 am Reply


    • Jill Aibel April 26, 2020 at 9:17 am Reply

      I am so glad you will n no it be visiting a dentist. No dentist should be put at risk for your ignorance.

    • bob marley May 29, 2020 at 6:40 am Reply

      are you retarted?

  • Christy April 26, 2020 at 6:28 am Reply

    Deja…. as a health care worker you are absolutely ridiculous in your comments. I hope you never lose a loved one to this virus or experience it yourself due to your lack of education on health and wellness. Good luck to you!

  • andrew lasky April 26, 2020 at 6:35 am Reply

    The idiot comments regarding this being a “mild cold” leave me speechless. I am a dentist working in an operating field where the virus is most easily transmitted. I am not in Utah, but we are going to have to take extraordinary steps in order to reopen, including mandatory testing of patients, temperature taking, extensive history taking, and taking steps to protect ourselves from the spread of the virus which include special air purifiers, and disposable gowns and wearing masks and shields. Just FYI, many of these items are not yet available for purchase. Patients or insurances will have to bear the cost of these safeguards as we cannot personally absorb these costs. So, to the person in the previous post, please don’t dismiss this a minor cold, and be aware of the reality of the situation.

  • LO April 26, 2020 at 6:46 am Reply

    I am a dental hygienist and would not treat someone with this attitude

  • Amber April 26, 2020 at 8:01 am Reply

    DEJA YOU ARE IGNORANT. The H1n1 has a mortality rate of 0.7 while Covid19 has mortality rate of 3.5.
    You are misinformed and your ignorance can cost lives. To say that you won’t comply with minimal guidelines of hand washing mask wearing and temperature taking also makes you an asshole. You really want to risk your friends and families lives so you can be arrogant???

  • Renneckar April 27, 2020 at 4:33 am Reply

    Deja wake up! I had to do a double take when I read the date you published to fully grasp how there are still people out their with these uninformed beliefs!
    Fear and ignorance are such a bad combination. Sometimes people just reject learning more, because they are to scared to face the truth. If not for yourself, please reconsider your stance for the health of your loved ones and the people working on the “front lines” combating this horrific pandemic that has been raging across the globe!

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