Thanksgiving ‘guidelines’ replace executive order tonight

SALT LAKE CITY – Gov. Gary Herbert took to the airwaves Monday to emphasize new recommendations from public health officials for safe holiday gatherings in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

At an unusual Monday press conference, the governor stressed that his executive order of Nov. 8, which mandated compliance with state guidelines on social distancing and maximum attendance at public gatherings, will expire at midnight. Of those directives, only the statewide mask mandate, which had been imposed indefinitely, is still in effect.

But Herbert said the current “challenging times” should not keep Utahns from adopting an attitude of gratitude and observing a “happy, but safe Thanksgiving.”

State Officials are urging Utahns to access and observe what are termed “General Guidelines for Holiday Gatherings” on the state’s COVID-19 website, which can be found at

Rich Saunders, the acting head of Utah’s Department of Health, emphasized that those guidelines stop short of the governor’s previous mandate that social gatherings be limited to members of a single household. The state’s retreat from that mandate came after Herbert held contentious meetings late last week with conservative lawmakers who viewed that limitation as constitutional overreach and an intrusion on Utahns’ civil rights.

The governor’s press conference came in the midst of some good news in the statewide battle against the coronavirus. Health officials reported 2,244 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, a significant decrease from the average of 3,295 cases per day reported over the weekend.

That decrease may, however, be the result of reduced testing on Sunday, when only 7,462 Utahns were tested compared to an average of nearly 15,000 COVID-19 tests per day administered in the previous 48 hours.

During Monday’s press conference, Saunders expressed cautious optimism that Utahns would voluntarily follow health recommendations listed on the state website in the absence of official mandates.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people,” according to the state website’s introductory text. “Regrettably, the situation is worsening and small household gatherings are an unfortunate contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases…

“One of the reason that COVID-19 continues to spread at social gatherings may be from the misconception that small social gatherings with people close to you – such as friends, neighbors or extended family – are safe options. However, that is not necessarily the case if you aren’t taking precautions.”

The precautions being recommended by Utah Department of Health officials run to six pages when printed from the state website. Those guidelines cover everything including guest list planning, meal preparation, seating arrangements and clean-up efforts. The website even offers somewhat impractical suggestions on how to ventilate holiday gatherings.

If the average northern Utah family were to take all those suggestions to heart, Thanksgiving dinner could be an occasion at which its members are seated at separate tables, wear masks and gloves, have limited conversation and eat off paper plates with the windows open. State officials also helpfully suggest that the whole event should be over as quickly as possible.

Specifically, the state’s guidelines suggest that guest lists for holiday gatherings be kept as small as possible, with virtual linkage encouraged for those who cannot, or should not, attend in person.

Those gatherings should also be kept short and sweet, according to state officials. The state website warns: “Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of getting sick.”

The website also contends that outdoor holiday gatherings are less risky than those held indoors.

“If you can host an outdoor gathering, you should (do so) …” the website advises. “If eating indoors, open the windows and turn on a fan to increase air circulation.”

The state website also recommends that hosts get flu shots prior to their gatherings and request that their guests do the same.

The website also lists guidelines for the preparation and serving of food items.

Those include limiting the number of people entering food preparation areas; avoiding potlucks dishes or buffet-style serving; having one (masked and gloved) person serve all food items to avoid multiple people touching utensils; and using disposable plates, cups and utensils.

Finally, the website repeatedly cautions that hosts and guests at holiday gatherings should wear face coverings, both indoors and outdoors, whenever they are not actively eating or drinking.

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  • Joseph Smith November 23, 2020 at 5:57 pm Reply

    By now I shouldn’t be surprised with the lack of leadership we have at the local and national level, but I guess I’m a sucker.

    So let me get this straight – we have laws like speed limits to protect ourselves in traffic. We have laws about drug use so that we don’t get addicted. We have laws about how late we can drink in a bar so that religious people can sleep better at night (haha). But Gary can’t make a mandate or a law in a pandemic because…we want to make sure and have turkey together? I feel like we’ve all gone mad.

    And while I’m at it – the mormon leader uses his platform to tell his followers to post stuff they are happy about and grateful for on social media?!? How about telling your followers to obey laws? To stay home and keep people safe? To be decent human beings? They are mentally ill and will do whatever you tell them to – why not keep them (and those around them) healthy while you take the zombie’s money?

    It’s alarming.

    • Blayne November 24, 2020 at 9:30 am Reply

      I hate that I share my community with ignorant idiots like you. Stay home if you’re scared. The fact is, if you get the virus, you have a 99% survival rate. So explain to everyone what you’re so scared about.

      And you really need to get over your hurt feelings from Sunday School. It’s sad that someone offended you at church when you were little. But to carry that with you your entire life is pathetic. Grow up

      • Ty November 24, 2020 at 8:02 pm Reply

        Since I’m sure you don’t spend a lot of time around hospitals, I’ll get you up to speed on the current status we are facing. There are lots of beds, but not enough doctors and nurses to go around. They are already at capacity, so any influx of patients will push them over the edge into a state where they will have to start rationing care and making some tough decisions about who to try and help and who to leave to fate. So far 99% have been lucky to recover. What you are suggesting is that we all play Russian roulette with covid and see who ends up in the unlucky 1%. If 1% of cache valley were to die, that’s over 1,000 people. Nationwide it would be almost 4 million people. And who are those 1% you don’t seem to care about? Those aren’t only old people and sickly people. The fact is that no one can predict how their body will react to covid. Strong, young, healthy people are considered recovered from covid and they are still on oxygen and struggling to breathe, and there is no way of knowing when or if they will be able to breathe easy again. The 1% are somebodys’ families, parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, children, coworkers, friends, employees and bosses. Are you okay saying goodbye to 1% of the people you know? Even though you don’t get to pick who lives and who dies? All you are being asked to do is wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay away from people as much as possible. The advice of these experts ought to let you know how at risk we all are. The safest way to have a Thanksgiving meal together is outside or with open windows, separate tables, wearing masks when not actively eating, eating in shifts, one server to avoid transferring foamites from hands using serving utensils, and keep it brief. That’s the advice of the doctors who have been fighting to keep us from getting sick and losing 1% of our population. This mild cold can live on surfaces for days, even weeks, and it spreads and kills faster than any flu we’ve ever seen before. Even if we are able to stay home, don’t need to go to work or get groceries, the laissez-faire attitude you and so many others exhibit keeps this thing spreading and growing. We can’t shut down the country, or else the economy will crash. I personally think human lives are more important than dollars, but fine, let’s not shut down the economy. The alternative is to wear masks, wash hands, and keep distance. And even that’s more than some of my fellow inhabitants of cache valley are willing to do to keep people from getting sick. I get that you don’t want to be told what to do, but you aren’t the only one in this. We are all connected, and we can only get through this if we all work together like Americans haven’t done since WWII. Everyone has to do their part. I’m wearing my mask, washing frequently, and staying away for you. What are you doing for me? Or don’t you believe in the golden rule?

        • Blayne November 25, 2020 at 4:05 pm Reply

          Ty- masks don’t work. The more people wear them, the higher the numbers. 1% is a much lower number than the climbing alcohol and abuse rates due to covid. Much lower than the percentage of businesses closing their doors and people losing jobs. Much lower than the number of kids losing the opportunity for a good education. I can go on, but you get the idea. Stay home if you have real concerns about the virus. Let the others live their lives

  • November 24, 2020 at 1:14 am Reply

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  • Joseph Smith November 24, 2020 at 12:20 pm Reply

    Blayne! Who let you out of your cage?!?

    Must have been the man with the yellow hat.

    Take your medicine. Say your prayers. Everything will be okay, bud.

  • lex November 24, 2020 at 1:00 pm Reply

    Because Pres. Nelson is not a dictator like our govenor and believes in free will. He trusts that we will do the right thing and allows us to choose for ourselves. But the biggest reason is because he doesn’t get involved politically which is what this whole mask thing has turned into.

    • Ty November 24, 2020 at 8:18 pm Reply

      This doesn’t have to be political. Listen to the doctors and the scientists and the experts who are fighting to keep us from getting sick. I’ve been wearing a mask daily since March, long before the first cases started showing up in our valley. I’ve been doing it while being ridiculed by people who made this political. I’m not politically affiliated, and most people would say I threw my vote away this election because I didn’t vote for someone in their 70’s. Can we put the politics aside for just 2 months and get this virus under control? Then you can all go back to talking whatever crap you want about the other party and its affiliates. Give it your all for 2 months, wear a mask over your nose and mouth, wash your hands every chance you can, and avoid spending time in close proximity to others. Just 2 months, and it could all be over. That was the attitude that got us through the depression and both world wars. Can we muster it now? I don’t know, and I’m doubtful that we will do it, but when you see someone wearing a mask and washing their hands, try to remember that they are doing that for you. And ask yourself what are you doing for them in return?

  • Ty November 24, 2020 at 8:43 pm Reply

    This is pretty dire coming from the governor. The people are insisting on having Thanksgiving together, and the experts say the only way to do it safely is to have it outside, one person cooking, one person serving, separate tables, and don’t sit around socializing for hours on end. I expect this will impact everyone’s December holidays. 2 weeks from now we will probably see another exponential spike in cases, much like we saw last week after Halloween cases started showing up. The daily case counts doubled in September, they doubled again in October, and they have doubled again in November. In December we will see 8,000 cases a day, and maybe even 10,000. Our hospitals are already at capacity. They can’t handle anymore patients. People who might have had a fighting chance a month ago will be passed over next month until they are in such bad shape they are in the worst need of care. If we can’t care for people, then deaths will spike right along with the cases. The masks were never going to be enough. They are essential, but they aren’t enough. We have to fight this pandemic. We have to wash and disinfect and keep a distance. We can’t win this without putting in some effort and suffering some discomfort. Please don’t wait until someone you love gets sick or worse. Give them the gift of doing all you can to see that you all can still be here together next Thanksgiving. Good luck to everyone. I hope we all make it through this.

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