COVID-19 Weekly Update

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’d like to express my gratitude to you all for allowing me to serve as your state senator in Senate District 25 for the last 35 years! It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to represent our community up on Capitol Hill. While this has been a hard year for us all, there is still so much to be grateful for this holiday season. May we all have a happy Thanksgiving as we count our many blessings this holiday season!

During Gov. Herbert’s weekly COVID-19 briefing last week, he shared safety recommendations for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. His recommendations include:

  • Gather with only members of your own household.
  • Wear a mask and social distance when gathering with people outside your household.
  • Hold shorter Thanksgiving celebrations, giving the virus less time to spread.
  • Gather outside when possible.
  • Ventilate indoor gathering areas by leaving windows open and turning on fans.
  • Limit people in attendance.

See a full list of state recommendations for the holidays here.  You can watch the briefing here.

Interim Highlights

We returned to the Capitol last week for our last interim meetings of the year. This was a bittersweet week as these were my final meetings serving as your state senator. I will truly miss serving in this capacity! These interim meetings help us prepare for the General Legislative Session by allowing us to consider bill files, research pressing issues, and receive presentations from various state agencies.
Here are just a few of the highlights from our interim meetings:

  • The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee voted in favor of a bill file that would make intentional obstruction of traffic during a riot a felony.
  • The Clean Air Caucus received a presentation on a bill that would expand teleworking for state employees. Under this bill, identified state employees would telework on days with poor air quality.
  • The Political Subdivisions Interim Committee heard a presentation on a bill that seeks to simplify the process for homeowners to receive permits to renovate their homes. As more are able to renovate portions of their home, this could create additional rental options and be a helpful piece in addressing affordable housing.
  • This year our higher education system brought universities and technical colleges under the same umbrella. The transition committee presented the challenges and successes of this change.
  • The Transportation Interim Committee heard a presentation on a bill file that would extend the term of a learner permit from one year to 18 months if passed during the session. This change would not prevent youth from getting their license at 16. In addition, this bill would remove requirements for observation hours.
  • Finally, our Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s Office released updated budget cards for the year.

For more information on the November interim meetings, visit le.utah.gov. Additionally, our non-partisan staff creates a newsletter each month, reviewing all of the main discussions from interim meetings. You can find the newsletters here. The latest update is usually released one week after the meetings.

COVID-19 Data and Updates

On Monday, November 23, the Utah Department of Health reported 1,918,793 total COVID-19 tests administered, 179,420 total positive cases, 117,104 estimated recovered cases, 7,602 total hospitalizations, 545 current hospitalizations and 797 total fatalities.

The Bear River Health Department reported the following local data breakdown:

COUNTYCasesTotal HospitalizedRecoveryDeathsTransmission Level
Box Elder1994106135511High
Cache7095245505814High
Rich404280Low
TOTALS   9129355644125

The graph below shows Utah’s ICU capacity from May 1 through November 18.


Several of you have asked that I compare the number of deaths from COVID-19 to other leading causes of death or the flu. The above graph compares COVID-19 to the leading causes of death for 2019. The graph is normalized to the period of time that we have had COVID-19 in our state so that we are not comparing one full year (2019) to several months of COVID-19.

The governor addressed the comparison to deaths by flu to COVID-19 this week during his press briefing. Below is the detailed comparison shared with me by the Utah Department of Health.

CasesHospitalizationsDeathsData from Period
COVID-19158,9576,98873235 weeks
(3/15/20 to 11/16-20)
Influenza (2017-2018 season, a particularly bad flu year)338,000*2,16994**32 Weeks
(10/1/17 to 5/19/18)

*Estimated-based on a CDC/UDOH model
**The count of death certificates that mentioned “influenza,” potentially an underestimate.

The state released information on the COVID-19 vaccine, including the anticipated vaccine approval and distribution timelines. You can learn more here. I have received many emails asking that the state not require citizens to get the vaccination. In Utah, we do not mandate our vaccinations. Utah is one of 15 states that allows a personal belief exemption from student required vaccines. In 2017, the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 308, which required the Utah Department of Health to create a new vaccination exemption form and amended the Utah Health Code regarding student vaccinations and records. It is important that individuals consult with their physicians to find the best solutions to their situations. I do not foresee Utah moving toward mandatory vaccinations.

The CDC released a report showing elevated levels of adverse mental health, substance use and suicidal thoughts by adults in the United States in June 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study also showed that mental health conditions are disproportionately affecting young adults, Hispanic persons, black persons, essential workers, unpaid caregivers and those receiving treatment for preexisting psychiatric conditions. Read the full report here. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please know there are resources. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 801-273-8255. Counseling is available in both English and Spanish.

In the News

Herbert Changing Household Restriction After GOP Legislative Outcry
“Behave Like You’ve Not Been Infected”: An Experts Advice for Utahns Who’ve Recovered from COVID-19
Why You Should Watch Test Positivity Rates as Utah Reports Higher COVID-10 Cases in Coming Weeks
Frontline Healthcare Workers Could Get COVID-19 Vaccine by December, All Utahns by July
Utah Doctors Warn Against Thanksgiving Family Gatherings, Offer Up Alternatives
Proposed Utah Bill Makes it a Felony to Block Roads During a Riot

What do you think?

You can connect to me online via Facebook (Senator Lyle W. Hillyard). I can also be reached by email at lhillyard@le.utah.gov or by phone at 435-757-0194.

Senator Lyle Hillyard