PAROWAN — During an Iron County department staff meeting that followed Monday morning’s regularly scheduled County Commission meeting, Dr. David Blodgett, director and health officer for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, shared some recent information regarding the spread of COVID-19.
“I’ve been a busy, popular guy, and it’s not the right time to be popular, right? I wish I had a little more sleep at night,” Blodgett said as he began his remarks and then immediately opened it up for questions.
One county employee asked Blodgett if he thought COVID-19 would turn out to be a seasonal virus and diminish as the weather warmed up.
After a pause, Blodgett joking replied, “I’m only taking easy questions today.”
Blodgett then went on to say that while COVID-19 is new, it falls into a category of viruses that have historically been seasonal in nature.
“The history of viruses like this is that they’re seasonal viruses,” he said, “Probably 30% of all common colds are coronaviruses – the four strains that circulate commonly in people. And those are very definitely seasonal viruses, right? They come on probably in November and they leave April, something like that.”
“So generally, the class of virus that something is, behaves like the class of virus that it is,” he said, noting that there are other virulence factors involved, including the fact that it jumped out of animals, “so it doesn’t know how to behave in people yet.”
Blodgett said if someone was going to pin him down, he would say it is a seasonal virus.
“And we’ll see it lessen as things warm up.”
During County Commissioner Paul Cozzens introduction of Blodgett, the commissioner wondered aloud whether the current level of response being taken is overkill.
“We want to be cautious and take all the precautions, but are we treating a hangnail with chemotherapy?” Cozzens asked. “You know, are we overreacting and actually going to do more harm to our economy?”
Blodgett would later address this by saying there are two opposing views on the issue.
“The first camp is, it doesn’t matter what it takes; we’re going to do whatever it takes to shut this thing down,” he said. “Then there’s the other camp, which is, you know, we have this kind of thing happen a lot. The medical system knows how to deal with this thing. We’re going to give good advice. We’re going to ask people to be responsible, but we’re still going to allow society to function and things like that. The side that says we’re going to try and be less aggressive is just losing out right now.”
Blodgett said based on the available data, he doesn’t believe COVID-19 numbers will approach those of the regular flu. He said:
I think it’s a misnomer to say we’re 11 days behind Italy. I don’t think that’s true either. I think we’re three weeks or more. So even if you look at exponential growth, you double it every incubation period, which is five to seven days. Let’s go out eight weeks. That number is 380,000 to 400,000 people in the United States. So it’s not possible for this thing to get anywhere near where we get to in a (typical) flu season.
Blodgett added that there have been four deaths from flu in the Southwest Utah Public Health Department district this year and 350 hospitalizations in the five-county area of Southern Utah. Even if COVID-19 managed to spread at a high rate, he said he doesn’t see it becoming more serious than the regular flu.
“We’ll never reach the level that the flu is, as we speak, anytime in the near future,” he said of COVID-19. “If this does get to continue and there’s no seasonality to it, then maybe we could get there next year, maybe. But I don’t think so. And if there is seasonality to this thing, we’re going to end up with much lower cases than we’ve had with the flu, ever. So putting things in perspective I think is really important.”
In addition to the comments from Blodgett, Iron County officials said Monday they are planning on keeping most county services operating as normally as possible while still taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A list of county offices that are still open and operating follows below.
Iron County offices and services
Although all Iron County offices with the exception of the senior citizens center remain open for business, county officials are asking residents to take care of business online or by phone where possible. People who are feeling ill should avoid coming into the offices in person. For more information, visit the county’s website or call 435-477-8300.
Iron County’s justice court calendar and the district court calendar have been cleared and limited for approximately the next 30 days. If you have a subpoena for a court hearing, please call 435-865-5310 to check its status. Some essential hearings may be held via teleconference.
People are advised to take precautions if making payments in person. If possible, make payments online by clicking here and following the directions. Those with court events scheduled are advised to check the online court calendar daily to see if any changes have been made and to not come to a hearing if they are not on the calendar.
The Iron County Jail lobby is currently closed to visitors. Only medical personnel, law enforcement and attorneys are allowed on site. Visits to inmates are suspended until further notice, but virtual at-home visits via video conference may be scheduled by following this link.
Motor vehicle registrations
Residents are advised to use precaution when visiting in person. License plate renewals are encouraged to be made online at the following link or by postal mail at Iron County Assessor, P.O. Box 537, Parowan, Utah 84761.
Senior Citizens Center
The Parowan and Cedar City senior citizen center offices are closed until further notice. All scheduled activities are canceled at this time. Meals on Wheels will proceed as planned. Those with questions or concerns may call 435-586-0832.
The Iron County Commission said in a statement on Monday that it is continuing to monitor the situation and will provide additional information as it becomes available. For updates on COVID-19 in Utah please visit the official state coronavirus website or call 1-800-456-7707.
Additional COVID-19 information resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Utah Department of Health
- Intermountain Healthcare
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