ST. GEORGE — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered a statewide mask mandate and also ordered that households may not participate in or host social gatherings other than with people in their immediate households for the next two weeks. These moves are in response to an ongoing surge in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Herbert issued the state of emergency order through an emergency alert sent to mobile phones throughout the state at 9 p.m. and an address to the state 30 minutes later.
“Our hospitals are full. This threatens patients who rely on hospital care from everything from COVID-19 to emergencies like heart attacks, strokes, surgeries and trauma,” Herbert said in the address. “(This) is not a shutdown of our society or our economy. We’re not closing any businesses … but the wearing of masks and exercising every precaution when it comes to gathering with others including social distancing is crucial.”
The governor’s full address can be seen in the video above.
Southern Utah and the rest of the state has been experiencing its largest rise in hospitalizations, deaths and infections from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic in March.
That included 105 new infections Sunday in Southern Utah – including 62 in St. George – and another 2,386 new infections statewide, according to the Utah Department of Health. Ominously, the state passed 20% positivity in COVID-19 tests statewide for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control said the optimum positivity rate to bring the virus under control is 5%.
As part of the state of emergency, Herbert has made the following orders that become effective immediately:
- The entire state of Utah is placed under a mask mandate until further notice. Businesses must require employees to wear masks and to promote mask-wearing to their patrons and visibly post signage to that effect. Those who fail to do so will be subject to fines from the Labor Commission.
- Utahns may not participate in or host casual social gatherings with individuals other than those in their immediate household for the next two weeks. The state will provide recommendations concerning the Thanksgiving holiday in the coming days.
- State and local authorities will prosecute and hold accountable those who sponsor and organize any public gatherings that do not exercise the required precautions of social distancing and mask wearing. Organizers of such gatherings will be subject to fines of up to $10,000 per occurrence.
- School sports and after-school activities are postponed for the next two weeks. Exemptions will allow high school playoffs and intercollegiate sports to continue.
- Students should not gather in social groups outside regular school hours over the next two weeks.
- COVID-19 testing operations statewide will expand. This will include weekly testing for university students and expand to include high school students who participate in extracurricular activities, people in the workplace under the age of 35 and high school teachers.
- The national guard will be activated to assist in contact tracing.
“Utah is open for business. You can still shop dine in or carry out exercise worship and recreate and many other things,” Herbert said. “We are just saying stay within your household group whenever possible particularly for the next two weeks.”
Herbert also addressed those who are against the wearing of masks or any orders to do so.
“Masks do not negatively affect our economy and wearing them as the easiest way to slow the spread of the virus. Experts tell us that masks do not cause a shortage of oxygen to your brain or cause disease,” Herbert said. “We cannot afford to debate this issue any longer. Individual freedom is certainly important, and it is our rule of law that protects that freedom. Laws are put in place to protect all of us. That’s why we have traffic lights and speed limits and seat belts and that’s why we now have a mask mandate.”
Herbert also said the ban on casual social gatherings stems from recent data indicating it as the largest cause in the recent rise of new infections.
“Data tells us that we are most vulnerable to infection in casual social gatherings. It is crucial that we exercise more caution when socializing with those who do not live with us in our homes,” Herbert said, adding that younger people will need to do their part as they may not be getting as sick from the pandemic, but they are a prime spreader of it. “Our data shows that individuals aged 15 to 24 have not been careful in a casual social gatherings and that the highest rates of spread are now occurring among this age group.”
COVID-19 information resources
St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.
We invite you to check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Utah Department of Health
- Safe Southern Utah
- Información sobre coronavirus en español
- Intermountain Healthcare
- To Donate and Volunteer to Help
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