Coronavirus deaths at 13, Utah sets up overflow hospital

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As the number of coronavirus deaths in Utah topped a dozen, the state set up an overflow hospital Monday in case there’s a spike of severe cases that strain the health care system.

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Four of the latest deaths were tied to nursing homes and another was an older man, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said. Thirteen people have now died of the illness in Utah and about 1,600 people are infected.

The growing numbers have state officials preparing for the possibility of more hospitalizations. They have set up 260 beds at a convention center in Sandy, with equipment such as IVs and a pharmacy, said Utah Division of Emergency Management spokesman Joe Dougherty.

Arranged to allow social distancing, the facility is intended for non-emergency, non-coronavirus patients but could also serve COVID-19 patients and be expanded if the situation changes.

While most people recover from the flu-like symptoms, older adults and those with other health problems are particularly vulnerable to pneumonia and death.

In other developments:

— Utah Democrats called again for a statewide stay-home order after the U.S. surgeon general urged governors to issue them in the handful of states still without them. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has issued a voluntary stay-home directive that does not carry penalties if broken.

Herbert said through a spokeswoman that he continues to monitor the situation and will base any future actions on real-time data. Several of the state’s biggest counties have issued their own orders with penalties.

— Utah County Attorney David Leavitt has tested positive for the virus, The Daily Herald reported. The Republican candidate for attorney general said it is the “all-time sickest I have been in my life.”