State officials’ support for the drugs led to confusion — and backlash.

The clearest example: the swift reaction to a March 27 email from the Utah Medical Association to the state’s doctors, which said that Utah’s health department was “recommending that providers use a longstanding medication to treat COVID-19.” Listed were forms of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

The email included suggested dosages, and added: “The state has arranged for production of compounded medication, so we do not anticipate this will cause a shortage for patients who need it for other conditions.”

Pavia, the infectious disease expert, fired off an email to Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist who has been helping lead Utah’s Covid-19 response, that only said “WTF?????” Dunn quickly wrote to Babitz and Miner: “Do you know who put out these recommendations from UDOH?” In a follow up, she wrote, “As you know I disagree with this approach.”

It was only the beginning. “This smacks as irresponsible and even reckless,” Scott Aberegg of the University of Utah’s division of pulmonary and critical care medicine wrote to state health officials, adding there was “no credible data that support a recommendation for this drug for this indication.” He said that patients should be in monitored clinical trials if they were going to be taking the drugs.