Utah governor to lift requirement limiting social gatherings

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FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, Kim Tapia holds her granddaughter Amariah Lucero, 3, as she’s tested at the Utah National Guard’s mobile testing site for COVID-19 in Salt Lake City. The U.S. has recorded about 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that a new order coming next week will lift the requirement to limit social gatherings to people in an immediate household.

Herbert also said he would maintain the state’s mask mandate.

The governor urged caution ahead of Thanksgiving weekend. Utah on Thursday reported a record 18 new deaths as a result of the coronavirus along with a record-high daily case figure of 3,968 people.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

“We know that the more people who gather together in an interaction, the closer you have a physical interaction, the longer that that interaction lasts, the more risky that situation becomes in catching or spreading COVID-19,” Herbert said during a news conference.

The state on Thursday reported 535 current hospitalizations from the virus. Nearly 730 Utah residents have been reported as hospitalized this past week, the most in any seven-day period since the pandemic began.

The increased number of hospitalizations in the state had prompted doctors and public health officials to advise against attending Thanksgiving gatherings with people outside a household, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

But Herbert’s announcement Thursday instead recommended masks, social distancing and smaller gatherings for the holiday.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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