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.
“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. 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.