SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert reassured citizens that the state is on the right track as it moves from high to moderate risk. The change allows restaurant dining rooms and other businesses to reopen.
During a press conference Thursday at the state capitol, Gov. Herbert said the shift from red to orange shows the state is making progress in the fight against COVID-19. He praised citizens for following his Stay Safe Stay Home directive and other regulations.
“There should be reason for all of us to be hopeful and optimistic as we continue to implement our plan that we’ll get through not only stabilization but soon into recovery,” Gov. Herbert said.
Under the new moderate regulations, face coverings should be worn in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Social interactions are prohibited for groups 20 or more. Symptom checking is encouraged for employees and customers of businesses. Employees are encouraged to still work from home when possible. Travel outside the state is discouraged and other trips should be limited. Also, Schools and churches remain closed.
Gov. Herbert said the state will likely remain in the moderate phase of his recovery plan for at least two weeks. He and officials will continue to watch the number of virus cases closely to prevent any possible spikes.
“We are now well prepared to test, trace and track those who have the COVID-19 virus and we can be ready to target any potential outbreaks that may occur in the future. We are well prepared to respond to any kind of a surge. That should give us some confidence and hope going forward.”
Thursday’s press conference was held as the Utah Department of Health confirmed one new death from the coronavirus during the past 24 hours. The Salt Lake County man was over the age of 60 and became the 46 person to die from the virus. There were also 177 new cases recorded, a 4 percent growth rate. The report showed a total of 4,672 cases within the state, resulting in 390 hospitalizations throughout the outbreak. It is also estimated that 1,939 patients have recovered.
Gov. Herbert expressed hope that as everyone works together, the state will be able to remain in the orange phase and begin planning to move to the yellow phase. He noted that some counties with low numbers of cases could begin loosening even more restrictions.
“We have five counties that have no incidents of COVID-19 in their community that we know of. We certainly have a respect for regional differences and different data. As I have said time and time again, we really don’t have a one size fits all approach on this. If requests come in and I expect they will, we will take a look at those requests and see if variances are warranted. I expect that we will all be under the orange code for the next two weeks.”
For the fifth day in a row, the Bear River Health Department reported no new cases. There remains a total of 60 positive cases reported in northern Utah, 43 in Cache County, 17 in Box Elder County and none in Rich County.
Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn said as the state moves from high to moderate, it remains important for citizens to follow regulations to prevent a spike in cases. She encouraged families or small groups getting together to be cautious, especially for those who are over the age of 65 or have underlying health conditions.
“We are relying on all Utahans to continue to adhere to social distancing practices when they are able to, wear a mask when social distancing is not possible, and to really follow the guidelines that are set forth by the Utah Leads 2.0 plan. It is going to be a statewide effort and everybody needs to take responsibility for preventing the spread. That means continuing good hand hygiene, stay home if you can and definitely stay home if you are ill. These will insure that we can continue to reopen parts of society and also prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Utah.”
Health officials continue to encourage anyone showing symptoms of the virus be tested. They include a fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches and pains, decrease sense of taste or smell, or a sore throat. Sites are set up at Sterling Urgent Care in Logan, North Cache Valley InstaCare in Hyde Park and the Bear River Clinic in Tremonton.