Utah (ABC4 News) – Sunday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a new State of Emergency addressing hospital overcrowding as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Starting Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. the state will be placed under a statewide mask mandate. Under the mask mandate, all Utahns must wear masks in public, and when within six feet of anyone they don’t live with.
The announcement of statewide changes has left Utahns wondering how the new state of emergency will affect them. ABC4 News create a Q&A in efforts to answer some common question and concerns.
Q: How long will the health order last?
A: Nov. 9, through Nov. 23.
Q: Why did officials make the change?
A: Gov. Herbert said the new health order follows weeks of continued stress on Utah’s hospital networks due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, the new health order was created in efforts to curb hospital overcrowding.
Q: Is the entire state under a mask mandate?
A: Yes, all of Utah’s 29 counties are under a mandatory mask mandate for the next two weeks. Under the mask mandate, all Utahns must wear masks in public, and when within six feet of anyone they don’t live with.
Q: Will the mask mandate apply to all Utah businesses?
A: The mandate is enforceable in business settings, which must require employees to wear masks, promote patrons to wear masks, and post signage to that effect. Businesses that fail to follow the new guidelines are subject to fines. The state notes that even after the orders expire, the mask mandate may be extended into the foreseeable future.
Q: Will Bars and restaurants remain open?
A: Bars and restaurants can remain open but cannot serve alcohol after 10:00 p.m.
Q: Will counties who aren’t in high transmission phase still be under a mandatory mask mandate?
A: Yes, regardless of transmission index all Utah counties are under a mask mandate.
Q: Why were the changes made now?
A: Gov. Herbert said that the recommendations come after a week of analysis and consideration following a meeting with Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Decisions have been made based on data.
Q: Why will the new state of emergency last two-weeks?
A: State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said a two-week time frame is enough for Utah to see a decrease in cases if Utahns follow the strict guidelines put in place Monday. She said all decisions surrounding the new state of emergency were based on national and local data.
Q: Will there be more testing?
A: “Testing needs to be accelerated,” Gov. Herbert said Monday during a press conference. Utah has not had as many tests as they would have liked in the past. The new order states that beginning as soon as possible, but no later than Jan. 1, students who are enrolled at public and private institutions of higher education, who either live on-campus or attend at least one in-person class per week will be required to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
Q: Can extracriculars still take place?
A: All extracurricular activities, including athletic and intramural events, will be put on hold for the duration of the order. However, this does not limit intercollegiate athletic events or practices and games associated with high school championships, that follow instructions for testing and limiting crowd size, as detailed in the order.
Q: Why are there so many exemptions?
A: Health officials said they are trying to find a good balance. The intent is to limit gatherings and contact to limit the spread of the virus. Fans at the football playoffs will be limited and they have to be masked and distanced. Other sports will be postponed.