Utah (ABC4 News) — Utah’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases has caused concern throughout the state. In the past week, the cases have reached record highs. Governor Herbert and the state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Angela Dunn, updated Utahns on the current pandemic during a press conference Tuesday. The announcement was made that Orem and Provo would be moved back to the orange phase of COVID-19 restrictions.
See full press conference below:
During Tuesday’s press conference addressing the state, Dr. Angela Dunn said it is three to six times more likely to catch COVID-19 in Utah County, specifically the Orem, Provo areas than anywhere else throughout the state.
“Provo and Orem account for over 50 percent of Utah County’s cases last week. And in some areas of those two cities, you are between 3 and 6 times more likely to have COVID 19 than the rest of the state,” said Dunn.
Dr. Dunn said there is “a lot of COVID-19 spreading in Utah County,” and urges Utah County residents to get tested if they have any symptoms so they can get the case detected and contact tracing narrowed. Utah County continues to be the driver of the high case counts in Utah, Dr. Dunn added.
During the press conference, Rich Saunders, Interim Director of Utah Department of Health, announced that Orem and Provo will transition from their current low-risk yellow phase to the moderate-risk orange phase due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
“The spikes we see happening in Utah County pose real threat to both the lives of people and our economy. Hence the need to have some decisive immediate action,” said Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday.
Still, he said, he doesn’t believe a statewide mask mandate is the solution — at least not now. But a mask mandate is still an option going forward, Governor Herbert said.
This is the first time health officials have moved any Utah county or city back a phase. Saunders said in efforts to slow the spread in Utah County officials will consider a mask mandate.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said while the news to move back to orange is “disappointing” the announcement “can and should serve as a community rallying cry to more vigilantly follow health guidelines so we can quickly move back to Yellow to protect our local economy from further damage.”
“We appreciate the past and continuing efforts of our community to be compliant with safety guidelines. We hope the Governor’s announcement is not a cause of discouragement to our citizens and business owners, but rather becomes an incentive to show how effective we can be when we fight COVID-19 together, ” Mayor Kaufusi added.
It was also announced as Provo and Orem move back to orange, team sports will be permitted to continue but must do so without the attendance of spectators. The current guidelines for orange do not allow sports, but an exception has been made.
It was also announced Rich County will join 13 other Utah counties by transitioning from yellow, low risk to green, minimal risk.