First COVID-19 positive test diagnosed in Southern Utah

Stock photo of nurse holding test tube with blood for 2019-nCoV analyzing | Photo by photoguns/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has confirmed the first case of a person being diagnosed in Southern Utah with a positive test of the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

3D illustration of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus.
| Photo by Maksim Tkachenko, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Because of confidentiality, the department is only identifying the person as an adult. They did not specify age or gender. The subject appears to have acquired the virus through travel, rather than community, or local, transmission according to Southwest Utah Public Health Department spokesperson David Heaton.

“It appears to be travel related,” Heaton told St. George News Saturday night.

Heaton said efforts throughout the state, and specifically Southern Utah, to socially isolate and avoid groups of 10 or more have played a role from seeing a large, exponential burst of cases. But Heaton added that the first positive case from a test made specifically in Southern Utah shows the efforts need to continue.

“We certainly expect to see more cases diagnosed positive in our area based on the activity but we hope by people following the public health order we can reduce those,” Heaton said. “We’re certainly not out of the woods.”

While the first to be diagnosed with the virus in Southern Utah, they are not the first local residents to come down with the virus.

The person is actually the third resident of Washington County to come down with the virus.

Jerri Jorgensen was the first Southern Utah resident to be diagnosed while she was aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship while it was docked in the port of Yokohama, Japan. 

After spending 15 days in a Japanese hospital, Jorgenson was declared virus free and returned to her home in St. George on March 4.

Her husband Mark was diagnosed on Feb. 24 after being moved and quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. He was later moved to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah before going on a state-ordered self-quarantine at his home in St. George.  

An image of the coronavirus shows the distinctive shape that gives the virus its name. “Corona” comes from the Latin word for “crown” or “halo.” | Photo courtesy the Centers for Disease Control, St. George News

According to the World Health Organization, 697 people aboard the cruise ship were infected with the virus, seven of whom passed away. Another St. George couple that was quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess returned home without ever being infected with the virus. 

Since being first detected in Wuhan, China last Nov. 17, the COVID-19 virus has spread to every continent except for Antarctica, according to the WHO. 

The first COVID-19 infection in Utah was announced on March 6. Presently, there are 136 infected in the state with no fatalities reported. That doesn’t include the new case in Washington County.

Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency in Utah on March 6 and has since taken actions that include a recommendation to limit mass gatherings and a soft dismissal of schools for two weeks.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the story said that the gender of the patient was identified. That is not the case. 

COVID-19 information resources

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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