SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — At least 27 people in Utah have died and 3,069 have tested positive for the coronavirus, state health officials reported Sunday, a day after about a thousand people violated a Salt Lake City health order by rallying against city social distancing and business restrictions designed to curb the virus’ spread.
Sunday’s data was released hours after protesters, many of them without masks and exchanging hugs, rallied at Salt Lake City Hall to demand a relaxation of health orders they said are costing jobs and ruining the economy.
The Utah Business Revival protest was among several in U.S. cities against the restrictions. President Donald Trump last week urged governors to relax state health orders by tweeting “Liberate Michigan” and ”Liberate Virginia” only hours after his White House released guidance on reopening the economy that allows the states to decide when to act.
“We have to let (officials) know, with our voice, that it’s ‘We the People’ and not ‘They the Government,’” Salt Lake rally organizer Eric Moutsos said to cheers from a tight-packed crowd, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued a statement noting that the gathering violated a public health order, which forbids mass gatherings of 100 people or more in public spaces.
On Friday, Gov. Gary Herbert said Utah hopes to reopen restaurants and gyms and resume elective surgeries in early May as the first steps to gradually reopen the economy. The Republican governor said the plan mirrors the White House guidelines but depends on citizens observing social distancing.
Utah is one of only a few states without a blanket stay-home order. Herbert has requested that people go out only for essential activities.
In Washington, hundreds of people gathered at the Washington state Capitol to protest Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
In Olympia on Sunday, some protesters wore masks, while others waved American flags. One of the organizers of the event says rural areas should be treated differently than more urban locations with more coronavirus cases. Similar events were staged in Idaho and Southern Utah on Friday.
Earlier Sunday, Inslee decried President Donald Trump’s call to “liberate” parts of the country from social-distancing decrees, saying Trump is fomenting a potentially deadly “insubordination” before the pandemic is contained. Washington state has more than 11,800 confirmed virus cases and over 600 deaths.