COVID-19 infections remain high in Southern Utah, but doctors say mask mandate helping

Photo illustration | Photo by Adalhelma, Pixabay, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah had its third-highest day of the pandemic for new infections Friday, but one of the leading doctors for Intermountain Healthcare said the mask mandate enacted nearly a month ago is still working.

Cars lined up with people arriving for their appointment times to take a COVID-19 test at the TestUtah site at Dixie Tech in St. George, Utah, on Dec. 4, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

I would hate to see where our numbers would be without masks,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, medical director of antibiotic stewardship for Intermountain Healthcare. “We’re seeing significant transmission in homes when people aren’t wearing masks. We’re not seeing it in public places where people are wearing masks.

“People are coming home or doing extracurricular activities with people from outside the household without masks and that is where we’re seeing transmission,” Stenehjem added. “Masks don’t work if you don’t wear them.”

Stenehjem cited a new study from the Centers for Disease Control concerning the mask mandate in Kansas, where counties were allowed to opt out of the mandate. According to the CDC, the counties that opted into the mask mandate had a 6% reduction in new infections, while the counties that opted out and didn’t mandate masks had a 100% increase in infections.

What happened was this natural experiment,” Stenehjem said. “No other intervention could account for the change there.

Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, medical director of antibiotic stewardship for Intermountain Healthcare, seen during a Zoom teleconference on Dec. 4, 2020. | Zoom screenshot, St. George News

There were 336 new infections in Southern Utah on Friday, according to the Utah Department of Health. It was the third-straight day with more than 300 new infections locally. However, there were no new deaths from COVID-19 reported in the five-county area for the first time since Sunday.

St. George, while declining from its one day-high a day ago, still had twice the new infections of any other city with 100,000 people or less in Utah on Friday with 179.

On the hospital side, Stenehjem said COVID-19 hospitalizations at Dixie Regional Medical Center and other Intermountain hospitals have stabilized at the record-high of between 40 to 60 local residents being treated for the virus each day over the last week.

Graphic showing 10 days with the most coronavirus cases in Southern Utah through Dec. 4, 2020. | Background photo by
Mbz-photodesign, iStock/Getty Images Plus; Infographic by Chris Reed, St. George News | Click to enlarge

“It’s stable, but this isn’t a hospital volume we’re comfortable with,” Stenehjem said. “We’re in a tenuous spot right now, just waiting for this wave of cases from Thanksgiving to hit us.”

Any new infections from the Thanksgiving holiday are still about three days away from showing up in the numbers.

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Dec. 4, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 13,211 (247.4 new infections per day in seven days, rising since Dec. 3)

  • Washington County: 10,504 (192 per day, rising)
  • Iron County: 2,082 (45.6 per day, rising)
  • Kane County: 198 (5 per day, rising)
  • Garfield County: 245 (1.1 per day, falling)
  • Beaver County: 182 (3.7 per day, rising)

New infections for major Southern Utah cities (numbers released ahead of Southern Utah numbers):

  • St. George: 179 (falling)
  • Washington City: 34 (falling)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 19 (falling)
  • Ivins City/Santa Clara: 22 (falling)
  • Cedar City: 53 (falling)

Deaths: 95 (1.1 per day, falling)

  • Washington County: 80 
  • Iron County: 6 
  • Garfield County: 6
  • Kane County: 1
  • Beaver County: 2

Hospitalized: 47 (falling)

Active cases: 4,254 (rising)

Recovered: 8,862

Current Utah seven-day average: 2,728 (rising)

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

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!