SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Utah Governor Gary Herbert issued an executive order Friday afternoon moving some rural areas to the green health risk phase of the state’s COVID-19 response plan.

In close consultation with local health authorities and the Utah Department of Health, Gov. Herbert has given the following counties the green light transition to Green, or New Normal Health Risk Status: Beaver, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Garfield, Millard, Piute, Uintah and Wayne beginning Friday, June 19 at 1 p.m and will stay in effect until July 3 unless otherwise modified by state officials.

According to the governor, the nine counties moving to the green phase only account for 3 percent of the state’s population. Herbert also says these areas have some of Utah’s lowest case counts and hospitalization rates.

“The rural lifestyle they enjoy is defined by wider physical distancing, and smaller, less densely populated towns. Although no area is completely free from risk, we feel comfortable having these sparsely populated regions transition from Yellow to Green,” said Herbert in a statement.

Kane County was the first county to move to the green phase on June 12. This latest move comes as other areas of the state continue to deal with surges of new cases of COVID-19.

In the ‘New Normal Green Phase’, masks, social distancing and increased hygiene measures are still highly recommended. In the new phase, K-12 schools may reopen for the 2020/2021 school year, large gatherings and venues are allowed with increased safety measures and team sports can resume competition if symptoms are checked beforehand.

Salt Lake City will remain in the orange phase while the remaining parts of Utah will stay in the yellow phase.