First local swine flu case confirmed
May 2, 2009
Health officials Saturday morning confirmed one case of the swine flu in Summit County.
Summit County Health Department Director Steve Jenkins said at a press conference the person is a student in the Park City School District who traveled to Mexico for spring break recently.
Classes and all school-related activities will remain canceled in the Park City School District until at least May 10, said Tom Van Gorder, the director of student services for the district.
"The closure is being extended to help reduce the further transmission of this virus," Van Gorder said. "Students are encouraged to stay home, avoid congregating and take other precautions against spreading or becoming infected with the virus."
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is testing six other probable cases of swine flu in the Park City area, Jenkins said, adding that nine suspected cases await confirmation statewide.
Results from tests on other Summit County samples could be known Monday.
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The people suspected of having the swine flu in the Park City area range in age from 3 to 44 years old, health officials said, not disclosing where they live.
"We’ll be coordinating the implementation of containment strategies including social distancing and evaluating the closure of events," Jenkins said.
The swine flu scare has sucked patrons from local eateries, Park City restaurateur Steve McComb said at Saturday’s press conference.
"I’m trying really hard to keep my businesses open, but in the worst economic climate of my lifetime, my business over the past couple of days has plummeted," said McComb, who owns three restaurants in Park City. "I don’t know if I can afford to stay open."
His Baja Cantina at Park City Mountain Resort sold about 64 fewer meals Friday than last year at this time, McComb said.
"I’m tying to decide whether I should close my restaurants until Memorial Day weekend," said McComb, who also owns Cisero’s and Bistro 412 on Main Street. "Tonight, I have prepared food, I have staff scheduled, and it’s going to be devastating to them if I close."
Despite the confirmed swine flu case, it’s business as usual in Summit County, Park City Chamber/Bureau Executive Director Bill Malone said.
"I just came by the Squatters brew pub on my way here and the parking lot was full," Malone said after Saturday’s press conference. "We are open for business. Other restaurants will be open no matter what [McComb] chooses to do with his restaurants."
Tension gripped Parkites this week as they waited to hear whether the newly discovered flu strain, which has killed several people in Mexico, had infected people locally. The school district canceled classes Thursday and grocery stores saw a run on hand sanitizer as word spread that a student had contracted the virus.
Park City Mayor Dana Williams encouraged people to live life as usual.
"I also have been contacted by a few other restaurants, specifically Mexican food restaurants. One of them in particular had the busiest night two nights ago that they have had in weeks," Williams said. "Yes, we’ve got a problem. Yes, we are trying to get the message out that we are open for business as usual."
Symptoms of the illness so far have been mild, Utah Department of Health Executive Director David Sundwall said.
"There is no need to panic," Sundwall said at the press conference, urging people to take precautions against exposure.
All City Hall facilities remain open. Staffers, however, have been instructed to ask people to leave municipal buildings if they display symptoms.
Phyllis Robinson, a spokeswoman for the city, said nobody had been asked to leave a building by Saturday morning.
There were about 634 cases of the swine flu confirmed in 13 countries and 21 U.S. states by Saturday, Sundwall said.