Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

December 31, 2020
2020 Top 10 Stories: #1 COVID-19 pandemic hits Tooele County

The COVID-19 pandemic, which reached Tooele County in March 2020, caused business and school closures, many hospitalizations and 12 deaths of Tooele County residents  by the end of December. 

Health officials said they don’t know when the pandemic will end.

In the beginning of March 2020, Jeff Coombs, Tooele County Health Department director warned those living in Tooele County that the Novel Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19 may eventually reach the county.

On Mar. 2, Coombs said that although no cases of the virus had been recorded in Utah, there may be those living with the virus who don’t know they have it.

“I expect Tooele County will eventually have confirmed cases and am confident we are prepared to handle those cases,” he said.

Coombs warned the public that the virus had already spread to Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea, among others.

He said that if an individual had returned from any of the countries that the virus had already spread, they may be at risk for contracting the virus.

In March Coombs said that the way the virus spreads was unknown, but it may spread through respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale, he said.

This proved to be true.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced a state of emergency on March 6 because of the number of cases had spread throughout Utah, but the virus hadn’t reached Tooele County yet.

During the week of March 12, grocery stores supplies in the county were running low, as people stocked up on food and other essentials in preparation for a shutdown and the governor’s recommendation for people to stay at home .

Individuals rushed to the stores in search of toilet paper, but were dismayed when they found none.

Shutdowns on March 18 included churches, in-person dining, libraries, and non-essential stores, among others.

Restaurants were soon allowed to re-open — but only for drive-thru or carry-out. Eventually dining areas were re-opened, but with a physical distancing requirement that cut seating capacity in half, or more in some restaurants.

Shutdowns also included a soft-closure of schools in the county.

Unemployment spiked to over 10% in Tooele County. The rate gradually lowered, but still remains higher than the pre-pandemic level.

The first recorded case of COVID-19 in the county was reported on March 17.

The first case, who was a male under 60 years old, was reportedly exposed to the virus during contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case while traveling to an affected area, a Tooele County Health Department official said. The diagnosis was made in Tooele County but he was treated outside of the county. 

Also, on March 17, Tooele County officials declared a state of emergency in the county.

On March 18, Tooele City mayor declared a state of emergency in the city, following county officials.

On March 24, the Tooele County Health Department reported that Tooele County had two confirmed cases of COVID-19 with no deaths and Utah had 257 positive cases and one death.

Coombs told members of the community that if they were experiencing any COVID-related symptoms, that they should contact their healthcare professional immediately.

He also said that those experiencing symptoms should quarantine themselves.

By April 6, Tooele County had 22 confirmed cases of the virus.

By the end of July most of the businesses in the county had reopened, but case numbers continued to skyrocket.

On Oct. 1, the Tooele County Health Department announced the first death in the county contributed to COVID-19.

On Oct. 13, the second death in the county was reported.

By November, there were over 1,400 cases of the virus reported in the county with three deaths.

On Dec. 28, Mountain West Medical Center employees received the first COVID-19 Moderna vaccines in the county.

“The vaccine for us means that the employees and medical staff can breathe easier,” said Dr. Megan Shutts-Karjola, chief of staff at Mountain West Medical Center. “We have found that COVID is unpredictable and if we can keep more healthcare workers healthy and available to care for patients, that will diminish the burden on overworked providers and alleviate fears surrounding the possibility of exposing our family members to COVID.”

After the hospital, the Tooele County Health Department began giving their employees the vaccine.

As of Dec. 30, there were 4,445 positive cases of the virus, 125 hospitalizations, and 12 deaths.

 

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