Summit County health officials support ‘steady state’ plan as COVID cases decline |

Summit County health officials support ‘steady state’ plan as COVID cases decline

Health Department proceeding with plans to transition out of pandemic response as the state prepares to make a similar shift

Summit County residents line up at a mass vaccination site operated at the Utah Film Studios last April for COVID-19 vaccines.
Park Record file photo

Health officials remain optimistic as spring nears as coronavirus cases in Summit County continue trending downward and Utah prepares to transition to a less intense phase of the pandemic response.

The current curve continues to point in the right direction as local case counts decline, even in schools, and other data indicators like wastewater samples and hospitalization rates show the trend will likely be sustained, according to Deputy Summit County Health Director Shelley Worley. Statewide data indicates that the rest of Utah also appears to be beyond the omicron surge, and state leaders are preparing for the next steps in the pandemic.

Utah health officials recently announced a plan to move to a “steady state” response by March 31, which shifts away from an overall public health approach to a more individualized one led by health care systems. Treatments for the coronavirus, including monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals, will be more widely available at various health care systems, hospitals and urgent cares as the Utah Department of Health begins closing its coronavirus response sites.

The transition includes closing community-based state testing sites as private practices, medical providers and at-home testing becomes more commonplace. Earlier in February, the state suspended its rapid test sites over accuracy concerns. The state will also update coronavirus case counts weekly rather than daily, with officials monitoring new variants and any case increases.

Testing in Summit County remains unaffected as the Health Department partners with a third-party contractor, which doesn’t use the BinaxNow tests in question in other parts of the state. Health officials initially expected higher demand for testing locally with sites closing in Salt Lake City but were confident the contractor would be able to manage the flow.

However, the demand hasn’t increased and instead continues to decline overall, according to Worley. The Health Department will continue reevaluating its contract until the end of March to determine if an extension is needed. COVID-19 testing is available Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Richardson Flat, Tuesday in Kamas and Friday in Coalville.

Worley said that health officials hope to maintain testing in Summit County for as long as possible so that they can easily respond if an outbreak occurs. However, she indicated that the service may no longer be needed if people begin utilizing other testing options.

“We want testing to be available to all residents and visitors, not just those living in Park City,” she said.

County health leaders announced their plans to transition out of a pandemic response weeks before the state released its plan.

Officials have been preparing messaging about what it means to be in an endemic, which occurs when a disease is regularly found in the community but infection rates remain static, and contact tracers have shifted their focus to preventing outbreaks rather than day-to-day tracking.

Worley supports the move to a “steady state” response based on the downward trends. She said it’s time to begin responsibly moving away from the emergency-level public health response but that officials plan to watch the numbers and respond to any surges if necessary.

“We’re keeping the thumb on the pulse to determine what’s next in public health response, which will likely be determined over the next few weeks,” Worley said. “The state is in a position where they’re trying to evaluate what is best for the community and people’s needs.”

There were 26 reported coronavirus cases in Summit County over Presidents Day weekend, with an additional six on Tuesday. During the same time, from Friday to Monday, there were 2,068 new cases statewide reported by the Utah Department of Health.

Worley believes that, with the knowledge and education that health officials and the public have gained over the last two years, everyone is in a good position to make the move to “steady state.” She encourages people to continue taking precautions to protect themselves and others by washing their hands, staying home if sick and getting vaccinated.

“This is the direction we need to start moving,” Worley said.


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