Utah governor ‘disgusted’ after health office vandalism
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday he is “disgusted” after someone shot at a state health department office in what he called an attempt to intimidate public health employees.
The agency said someone shot at its office overnight in the Salt Lake City suburb of Millcreek with what appeared to be a pellet gun. The vandalism occurred the night before the state reported its highest daily COVID-19 case count on Friday.
“I am disgusted by the attempts to intimidate public health workers,” Herbert said in a statement to Fox 13. “Targeting the selfless civil servants who work to keep our communities healthy is cruel and ridiculous. Our public safety teams will continue to work to protect the safety of those who work in public health.”
Photos shared with Fox 13 show a glass door and windows were damaged. No one was injured in the shooting.
The state health department reported a new daily record for confirmed coronavirus cases Friday with another 2,292 Utah residents infected. Utah also surpassed the grim milestone of 600 deaths from the coronavirus, just three weeks after passing 500 deaths.
The state also issued an emergency alert on mobile phones warning about the record number of cases and urging Utah residents in high transmission areas to follow mandatory mask orders and rules that curtail social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.
In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 15.8% to 18.2%, according to state data. The weekly average for new cases per day has increased from 1,355 to 1,622. State health officials have said that such a high positivity rate indicates the numbers of infection are far higher.
Herbert said people shouldn’t “become numb” to these numbers and the dire impact they will have on those infected and their families. He said Thursday’s new cases alone will likely result in 115 hospitalizations and 11 deaths based on Utah’s hospitalization and fatality rates.
“This will cause increasing strain on our already overworked medical professionals, and leave even more families with an empty chair at their dinner table,” Herbert wrote in a statement. “And that is to say nothing of the long-term effects many more of these Utahns will face, even as they recover.”
These record-breaking case numbers come a day after Herbert and other state officials warned that Utah hospitals may soon need to implement crisis care protocols because they “can’t keep up” with the recent coronavirus surge.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The shooting follows statewide anti-mask demonstrations, including two protests that occurred outside the home of State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn on Thursday. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said on social media that another state health employee’s home was also targeted but did not identify them.
“It’s unclear what, if any, relation there is between this incident and recent protests at the homes of public health officials,” said state health department spokeswoman Charla Haley.
The state Department of Public Safety, which often provides security for state-operated facilities, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the television station.