First known instance of coronavirus community spread in Summit County discovered (updated)

Courtesy of the CDC
Resources for information about the coronavirus

People concerned about whether they have COVID-19 are advised to call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707. 

An employee at the Spur Bar and Grill on Main Street contracted COVID-19, state and local health officials announced Saturday morning, in what they say is the first known instance of community spread of the novel coronavirus in Utah.

Community spread is when someone has contracted the virus from an unknown source. The patient, a man between the ages of 18 and 60, had not traveled recently and did not have contact with another person confirmed to have the virus, officials said. The patient was recovering at home.

“This really changes the picture,” said Rich Bullough, director of the Summit County Health Department. 

Bullough said the man works at the door of the Spur and attended work while symptomatic. However, officials believe the biggest health risk is to other employees, as his position does not require him to interact for long periods of time with customers.

Nonetheless, health officials recommended anyone who has visited the bar since March 6 to monitor themselves for symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, such as cough, fever and shortness of breath. 

“We don’t think there’s a significant risk at this point in time to the individuals who frequented the bar,” Bullough said. 

The Spur closed Friday night after being made aware of the patient’s positive test and on Saturday morning was undergoing a cleaning conducted by an independent company certified for this type of sanitization, Bullough said. County health staffers observed the cleaning to ensure it complied with standards. 

Officials believe the man was in contact with approximately 20 employees. The Spur, Bullough said, has agreed to implement a policy that will keep those employees out of the establishment and in self-isolation.  

The Health Department was working to contact those people to monitor them for fever and respiratory symptoms.

Cortney Johanson, managing partner at the Spur, said in a prepared statement to The Park Record that the establishment is taking the matter seriously. 

“From the moment we found out, we have been working with authorities at the Summit County Health Department to ensure the safety of our community, our customers, and our staff,” she said. “… We are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our Spur family and our community remain healthy. We are grateful for the long-standing positive relationship we have with the Health Department, and would like to thank the community in advance for their continued support.”

Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health, said the state has been preparing for community spread of COVID-19. As of Saturday morning, there were nine known cases involving Utah residents, in addition to five visitors who have tested positive for the virus. 

The Spur employee is at least the fifth person known to have COVID-19 in Summit County. Four others were announced between Wednesday and Friday. Those four cases, involving one county resident and three out-of-state visitors, were related to traveling, officials have said.

Dunn said the emergence of community spread underscores the importance of efforts to slow the virus. 

Locally, those efforts have included both Summit County and Park City declaring local public emergencies. Summit County also issued a public health order, while both governments have taken additional steps like closing their libraries and recreational facilities. 

Statewide, Gov. Gary Herbert announced a two-week dismissal of all K-12 public schools in the state, beginning Monday. Earlier in the week, he announced a restriction on public gatherings of more than 100 people. 

Officials are also urging people who can work remotely to do so and encouraging businesses to allow for sick people to stay home. 

“It is imperative that our business partners take the recommendations seriously that we have made and prevent gatherings,” County Manager Tom Fisher said Saturday. “We expect their support.”

Fisher acknowledged that officials are concerned about how the measures to slow the coronavirus will affect the community’s service workers who do not have paid time off and who generally live paycheck to paycheck.

He indicated that the county has been in discussions with community organizations that may have resources to help the most vulnerable in society, including workers and those who require child care.

Park Record reporter Jay Hamburger contributed to this article.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Cortney Johanson’s name.

Officials: Call if sick

Local, state and federal officials have been working to contain the spread of COVID-19, including advocating measures to prevent health systems from being overloaded.

One of the most important measures, local officials have said, is for people who have flu-like symptoms to call their health care provider before visiting a medical facility in person.

“We want to make sure that folks who are exhibiting systems aren’t just wandering up to an emergency room,” said Chris Crowley, Summit County’s emergency manager. “We want them to go through the process and arrive at an emergency room or clinic that is prepared to see them.”

Utah Coronavirus Numbers to Know

• Utah Information Line 800-456-7707
• U of U Health 801-213-2874
• Intermountain Health 844-50 1-6600

The person who had the first case of the virus in Summit County followed many correct procedures, officials said. He called a telemedicine arm of his health care provider, which allowed the clinic to prepare its staff to receive him. When he arrived, a clinician in protective gear collected a sample while he remained outside the clinic, effectively limiting exposure to others.

Health Director Rich Bullough said calling a health care provider rather than visiting lowers the risk of spreading the virus to other patients and, crucially, to the health care providers themselves.

We need to consider as a community, as a population of people, that one of our highest-risk populations are the caregivers. We cannot afford to have nurses and physicians out sick with this,” Bullough said. “Especially as the (number of cases of the virus in) community members increase, it is important that we take the actions individually to protect (health care providers). And so I think the process of not just showing up at a clinic is critical.”

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