SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 23, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a new public health order at a news conference Monday morning.
The new order will go into effect Wednesday, Nov. 24 and will remain in effect until Dec. 8 unless otherwise modified or amended. The full order is available here.
The state of Utah previously issued a series of public health orders Nov. 8, which include a mask wearing mandate statewide. That will be maintained, Herbert said.
Subjects addressed at the press conference were:
“We want you to have a happy Thanksgiving, but a safe Thanksgiving,” Herbert said. “We’ll remind you all about the protocols, which you’ve heard many times before, but are no less important today than they were a few months ago. Remember to have a safe practice as you gather. You increase the risk when you bring people into your home from outside of the four walls of your house. That’s just the harsh reality and what the data shows us.”
Herbert said that those attending gatherings should wear masks and social distance. He said all attendees should wash their hands regularly with water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Food should ideally be prepared and served by one person, as opposed to having pot lucks, and that person should wear a mask while serving food. Herbert also asked that gatherings be kept as short as possible.
“Be thankful, but be careful,” Herbert said. “Follow the medical and science recommendations we have, have a safe and happy holidays, and if we do that, we’ll be around for the holidays for next year too, and that’s the important thing.
New public health orders
Rich Saunders, interim executive director of the Utah Department of Health said a new public health order will return Utah to the transmission index that was in place before Nov. 8, in which each week counties are placed in a high, moderate or low transmission level, based on COVID-19 data.
“At midnight tonight when the transmission index is re-implemented, 26 of the 29 counties in Utah will be placed in the high transmission category,” Saunders said. “Three counties: Daggett, Paiute and Rich, will be in the low transmission category.”
Masks will continue to be required in all counties across the state regardless of the transmission level. Masks are to be worn in public indoor settings and outdoors when physical distancing is not feasible.
Saunders said previous restrictions on social gatherings will be also be positioned as recommendations, versus public health mandates, leaving it to residents’ discretion to prescribe how many people should be in an individual home for gatherings. The limit on the number of people who can attend a private social gathering has been removed. “We still recommend gathering only with those in your same household, that is the safest way,” he said. He said if residents do gather with other households, health experts recommend keeping the numbers “small.” He advised Utahns to “think through the numbers that would attend social gatherings.” In high transmission areas, “you might consider 10 or fewer. In low transmission areas, you might consider 50 or fewer,” he said.
Saunders said regarding ex-curricular activities, starting Nov. 30, all participants including staff and coaches will have to get tested for COVID-19 every other week. For club sports, recreation leagues, dance studios, gymnastics gyms, volleyball gyms and other activities of that nature, participants will be checked for symptoms and asked about recent exposures before every practice and event.
The quarantine protocol for businesses is also changing. Businesses may have quarantined employees return to work earlier. If an employee was exposed in the workplace, that employee can be tested on day seven of the quarantine and a negative test will clear that employee to return to work, at the discretion of the business owner.
In restaurants and bars, social distancing will continue to be required between parties and masks will continue to be required to be worn at all times except when eating and drinking and alcohol will cease to be served after 10 p.m. As for large gatherings, like sporting events, weddings, and theater, masks continue to be required and social distancing should be practiced.
Increased testing and the vaccine
Herbert said testing will be increased for Utahns in the coming weeks, including young people and those who are asymptomatic. He said the goal is to test between 250,000 and 300,000 Utahns per week.
“That will allow us to find people and isolate them, to help slow the spread,” he said.
He said the vaccines that are likely to be available in the next few weeks for high-risk groups are also a ray of hope for Utahns.
“Around March, April, we’ll hopefully see the vaccine being made available to all of the general population,” he said.
Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, said at the press conference: “We continue to encourage all that need a test to get one, but I also want to note that everyone who wants a test can now get one by going to testutah.com, even if you don’t have any symptoms or you haven’t been in close contact, you can now go to that website and schedule a test.
Taylor Randall, dean, David Eccles School of Business, described Utah’s economy as “fragile,” though in a better position than many other states.
“We have to continue to focus on protecting our businesses and our economy,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to bridge the health of our economy between now and when vaccines are widely distributed. Mask wearing creates a triple play. It reduces COVID spread in our communities, but it also increases consumer mobility in stores and restaurants and increases consumer spending.”
A recent Utah study corroborates this, Randall said.