Gov. Herbert criticized for loosening some COVID-19 guidelines


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Thanksgiving Day travel is up, and Utah is easing its restrictions on how many people can visit your home.

The Utah Department of Health’s Rich Saunders says, “We are trying not to prescribe how many people should be in your individual home. We want to leave that to your discretion. So we removed the limit on the number of people who can attend a private social gathering on your own private property.”

With 26 of the 29 counties placed in the high transmission category Monday. Governor Gary Herbert recommends folks wear a mask around those who don’t live in their households for Thanksgiving, physically distance themselves, while limiting your visits.

The Governor says, “We still are in challenging times.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall disagrees. In a statement she expresses:

With new case counts breaking records weekly, daily deaths increasing, and no downward trend in sight, the Governor’s loosening of the public health order today is the opposite of what state leadership should be doing right now. Data-driven decision making means using the best available information to acutely address the source of the issue and in Salt Lake County, the majority of case spread is within households. This announcement by the state to relax restrictions exactly where we know the most spread of COVID is happening, is counter to good logic and the data we have.

Our statewide health and the well-being of our critical healthcare workers is at risk. Families are at risk and our economy is at risk. The vast majority of businesses are operating safely and need our support. Conversely, our data shows that when people go into homes to socialize, the same precautions are not being practiced and the virus is predominantly spread in those settings.

This weakened, new order sends a message to people that gathering in homes for the holiday is safer than it was two weeks ago, when the data show it absolutely is not.

I call on the State Legislature and the Governor to take bold action to protect our health by making data-driven policy decisions, not succumb to the fatigue of this pandemic for the sake of a holiday.

While the governor loosened guidelines on gatherings, he did extend the mask mandate throughout the entire state, and that could be a good thing for our economy.

In a new study, the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business found Utahns were more than 50 percent likely to shop at places like the mall if everyone wore a mask.

“If individuals will actually mask up as they interact in the economy, it gives confidence to others to engage in economic activity,” says Dean of David Eccles School of Business Taylor Randall.

He adds, “If you choose to not wear masks, you’re causing the confidence of your community to decrease which means you will see reduced economic activity.”

Experts say Utah has a lower than the national average rate of unemployment at 4.1 percent.

Natalie Gochnour is the Associate Dean of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. She says, “The Utah economy continues to perform better than most if not all states.”

Doctors at several of Utah’s hospitals are recommending folks keep their Thanksgiving gatherings to their immediate families to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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