‘Through the roof’: Governor to extend Utah’s public mask order beyond November 23rd

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Governor Gary Herbert plans to extend Utah’s mandatory public mask order beyond its original expiration date of November 23rd, he announced Thursday.

“Right now our positivity rates are through the roof at about 24 percent. That’s way too high,” Gov. Herbert said during his monthly news conference. “Our hospitals are being overwhelmed now with more and more demand for IC units.”

Gov. Herbert calls it a “sad commentary” that the state currently has just 45 empty ICU beds. He says he will extend the statewide mask mandate beyond Monday but, will allow gatherings of more than just members of the same household.

With many believing the Governor is not doing enough and many others protesting that he’s doing too much, he’s in the ultimate no-win situation as cases continue to surge ten days into his emergency order.

“We can look around the country and find that nobody seems to have an explanation for it,” Gov. Herbert said.

“We’ve tried a variety of different approaches, none of which seem to be working. We’ve had the approaches of ‘do nothing’ like in South Dakota which some have pointed to as ‘We ought to be more like South Dakota’. They’re the number three highest death rate in the world right now. Their infection rates are through the roof. North Dakota is number one in the world so that’s probably not the best model to follow. New York has low case counts now but they had a high death rate in advance of that…When their death rate is about 170 per hundred thousand and ours is less than 20 I’m saying ‘well, maybe we’re on the right side of this issue as we try to navigate to maintain everything we can do to protect peoples’ health and at the same time keep the economy open and we’re one of the best performing economies in America today. On balance we’ve done a pretty good job.”

On Thursday afternoon the Governor took part in a nationwide conference call with President-elect Joe Biden about fighting the pandemic.

“I hope that he will still continue to let states conduct their own declarations and make their own recommendations to the public and our own mandates rather than a national mandate,” Gov. Herbert said. “I don’t think he’s going to go that direction. I hope not.”

Gov. Herbert said he also expected to hear from the President-elect about federal funding for Utah businesses and individuals to bridge the gap between the pandemic and what he calls ‘the recovery of 2021’.

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