Provo, Orem to move to “orange” during COVID-19 uptick

Sep 22, 2020, 11:56 AM | Updated: Sep 24, 2020, 10:32 am
covid-19 cases uptick mask mandate...
(Credit: Kristin Murphy, KSL File)
(Credit: Kristin Murphy, KSL File)

SALT LAKE CITY — State officials announced Tuesday that Provo and Orem will move from “yellow” to “orange” on the state’s color-coded coronavirus response plan as a result of the current COVID-19 uptick in the state. 

Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn addressed the public Tuesday about the uptick in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the school year. 

You can follow the announcement below.

Utah health officials on the numbers

Utah officials known as the Unified Command, which replaced the state’s coronavirus task force, met in a series of meetings to address the COVID-19 uptick in recent days. 

“Today, more than half of our counties are in a yellow restriction level,” said Rich Saunders, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health and economic lead of the Unified Command. 

Saunders said the Unified Command considers three main indicators in deciding what color code is appropriate for a specific community: case trends, hospital use, and percent positivity. 

Saunders announced based on those indicators that Provo and Orem will move from “yellow” to “orange” on the state’s color-coded coronavirus response plan. 

“We’ve done a tremendous job as a state throughout this pandemic, leading the nation in a number of ways,” he said. “We concluded that an immediate change needed to occur in some color restrictions.” 

Saunders said sports could continue, so long as the events include no spectators. 

However, one area will move to “green” because of its low case count: Rich County.

The latest numbers

Utah health officials reported 650 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, for a total of 65,044 since the pandemic began. Perhaps more concerning was the uptick in percent of positive COVID-19 results; the state tested 6,908 people Monday with a rolling 7-day average of percent positive lab tests at 13.9%. 

“Today, we have 161 individuals hospitalized due to COVID-19. Last week at this time, we had only 115,” Dunn said. 

The state recorded two additional deaths Tuesday for a total of 443 since the beginning of the outbreak. Both patients were over the age of 65 and were hospitalized at the time of their death.

“Cases in Utah County grew by 81% in the last week,” Dunn said. “The case rate in Utah County is 5.4 times greater than the rest of the state.” 

Dunn noted that Utah County accounted for 40% of the state’s overall number of COVID-19 cases, in spite of containing just 20% of the state’s residents. 

Admonishing students about the COVID-19 uptick

The presidents of both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University sent a letter to students urging caution as COVID-19 cases spike in Utah County. 

“We’re concerned not only for your well-being, but also those in the local community who are affected by the trends we’ve seen in the last week,” the letter stated. “If circumstances do not improve within the next two weeks, more dramatic action will be necessary. This may include a two-week quarantine, closing campuses to the public or a complete retreat to all-remote instruction for the rest of the semester.”

Much of Utah’s COVID-19 uptick in the last few weeks has registered in the 15-24 age group, an indicator of potential spread among high school and college students. But Dunn noted all age groups have increased. 

“We’re likely missing positive cases because individuals are not getting tested in Utah County,” Dunn said, urging anyone who has symptoms or has been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case to seek testing. 

Herbert said the announcement represents the first time state officials moved “back” on its coronavirus response. 

“What takes place here certainly has an impact on the marketplace,” Herbert said, describing himself as ‘sensitive’ to those concerns. “We want to do everything we can in Utah County to get out of the orange and back to the yellow as soon as possible.” 

Provo Councilman calls for mask mandate

Provo City Council Chair George Handley is calling on Utah County to pass a mask mandate. 

Handley is supportive of the state moving the city to “orange” status, but says a county-wide mandate would be more effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

“I think there’s a limited effectiveness when it’s not broader because we saw parties move from Provo to Orem, for example. We know that there’s tremendous amount of exchange daily between Orem and Provo and even county-wide,” Handley said. 

Handley also worries about older and more vulnerable people getting COVID-19. 

“It’s very difficult to contain the spread of this disease in just [the young] population,” Handley said. 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

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Provo, Orem to move to “orange” during COVID-19 uptick