Stores bring back limits on toilet paper, disinfectants as Southern Utah sees 200 COVID-19 cases in a day

ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah reached 200 new coronavirus infections reported in the five-county area Friday, while local markets are once again placing limits on the amount of toilet paper and disinfecting products people can purchase.

Friday was the third-straight day that Southern Utah set a new one-day high for COVID-19 infections, and it is not alone.

The state of Utah came close to breaking the 3,000 barrier for new infections on Friday with 2,987 new cases, according to the Utah Department of Health. That was 157 less than on Friday in California, which has 13 times the population of Utah.

There were also a record 17 deaths that were directly caused by the coronavirus reported by the Utah Department of Health, including two in Washington County, while the record number of those hospitalized statewide continued to climb.

In a statement, Gov. Gary Herbert reiterated what he hinted at Thursday, that he will be making changes to the state’s prevention policy early next week.

Graphic showing 10 days with the most coronavirus cases in Southern Utah through Nov. 6, 2020. | Background photo by by mbz-photodesign, iStock/Getty Images Plus; Infographic by Chris Reed, St. George News | Click to enlarge

“COVID-19 is spreading rampantly and uncontrolled in our communities. Getting ahead of this trend will become more and more difficult with every passing day. In the coming days, I will be announcing additional policies designed to address this ongoing surge,” Herbert said, criticizing those he said have not taken the pandemic seriously. “The numbers being reported today are exactly what we’ve been warning Utah residents about for weeks. They are why we’ve implored Utahns to adopt the behaviors that could have prevented us from reaching this point.”

There are now 1,952 people who are actively infected with the virus in Southern Utah, according to the Utah Department of Health, which translates to more than one of every 100 people locally. Of the 200 new infections reported Friday, 162 were in Washington County with 83 being in the city of St. George.

Iron County, which has not had a mask requirement since it moved to a moderate level in the COVID-19 Transmission Index on Oct. 29, had its highest amount of new infections in one day since the start of the pandemic on Friday with 28 new infections.

Because of the 14-day gestation period of the virus, the present rise in numbers still doesn’t reflect any infections that took place during the Halloween holiday, and health officials are expecting the social gatherings that took place then to cause an even bigger increase in the next week.

A masks required sign outside Smith’s Market on Bluff Street in St. George, Utah, seen on Nov. 6, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

There was a large gathering that took place at an indoor facility near the site of the former Brigham’s Playhouse in Washington City on Oct. 31 that was touted as a quarantine party/protest that drew dozens in close quarters without face coverings. Social media also was full of similar events throughout Utah that drew alarm Thursday from state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.

This was very concerning for a spike in the next week or so. It is likely we will see additional cases because of these large events,” Dunn said. “We just can’t have these mass gatherings.

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has expressed less alarm about mass gatherings. A large carnival is taking place at Washington County Regional Park throughout the weekend and department spokesperson David Heaton said large gatherings are not as big of a concern right now.

“Such events are allowed with appropriate precautions, and outdoor events have shown to be low risk for outbreaks in our area thus far,” Heaton said.

Chart shows cases in Southern Utah from the coronavirus from May 1 to Nov. 6, 2020, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. | Chart by Chris Reed, St. George News | Click to enlarge

While a new policy that started on Oct. 13 made the wearing of masks mandatory at indoor public places with high transmission rates like Washington, Garfield and Beaver counties, Dunn said Thursday that contact tracing by the Utah Department of Health has determined that most of the spread has been taking place when people come home, take off the masks and intermingle with people from outside the household without distancing or face coverings.

The increase goes beyond Utah to the nation as a whole. According to John Hopkins University, the United States has had more than 100,000 new cases in each of the last three days, including a record 121,504 new infections Friday. For perspective, that is more than all of the infections that have occurred in Japan since January (104,782).

Markets limiting toilet paper, disinfectant purchases again

With the coronavirus on the rise in localities, the state and the nation, shoppers locally are having a bit of deja vu from the start of the pandemic as there is a new run on products like toilet paper and disinfecting products.

A sign limiting the purchase of toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning products seen with toilet paper stocked inside Smith’s Market on Bluff Street in St. George, Utah, seen on Nov. 6, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Kroger, the parent company of Smith’s Market, said Friday it has reinstated a two-item limit on products like toilet paper and disinfecting cleaning products.

“To ensure all customers have access to what they need, we’ve proactively and temporarily set purchase limits to two per customer on certain products,” Kroger said in a statement received by St. George News.

At Smith’s Market on Bluff Street in St. George Friday, the market itself appeared more filled than usual. However, there was plenty of toilet paper and paper towel products stocked, as well as disinfecting products. Signs were placed in the aisles informing shoppers of the two-item limit.

St. George News has learned that Albertsons also now has a two-item limit on both cleaning products and toilet paper. Meanwhile, Walmart and Lin’s Market presently have no limits on toilet paper but do have a two-item limit of disinfectants and disinfecting wipes.

The one local market that doesn’t have limits on either at this point is Harmons, though a store clerk pointed out, “We rarely have the cleaning products in stock.”

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.

We invite you to check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Nov. 6, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 7,219 (119.9 new infections per day in seven days, rising since Nov. 5)

  • Washington County: 5,836 (102.9 per day, rising)
  • Iron County: 1056 (11 per day, rising)
  • Kane County: 107 (0.6 per day, rising)
  • Garfield County: 120 (2 per day, rising) 
  • Beaver County: 100 (2.9 per day, steady) 

Deaths: 60 (0.6 per day, rising)

  • Washington County: 49  (2 new since last report: Hospitalized female 65-84, hospitalized male 65-84,)
  • Iron County: 4 
  • Garfield County: 5
  • Kane County: 1
  • Beaver County: 1 

Hospitalized: 28 (dropping)

Recovered: 5,199 

Current Utah seven-day average: 2,033 (rising)

Southern Utah counties in high transmission level as of Nov. 5 (masks required, gatherings to 10 or less): Washington (22.4% positive tests, 689.0 per 100,000 case rate), Beaver (22.2% positive tests, 410.3 per 100,000 case rate), Garfield (11.3% positive tests, 393.7 per 100,000 case rate)

Southern Utah counties in moderate transmission level (masks required, gatherings to 10 or less until Oct. 29):  Iron (12.9% positive tests, 255.8 per 100,000 case rate)

Southern Utah counties in low transmission level (masks recommended, gatherings to 50 or less): , Kane (14.9% positive tests, 320.6 per 100,000 case rate)

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

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