SALT LAKE CITY– With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Utah officials have issued an updated public health order.
During the state’s monthly COVID-19 briefing, Rich Sanders, Director of the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) announced that, at midnight on Tuesday, the state will transition back to the “Transmission Index” as a way to monitor the spread of COVID-19.
The order will end on Dec. 8 unless amended or modified.
Saunders said 26 out of 29 counties in Utah will remain in the “High” transmission category. The only counties that will not be in the “High” transmission category will be Daggett, Piute, and Rich. Those counties will be in the “Low” index.
Along with the transition, Saunders announced that the gathering limit as it relates to private property will be removed from the public health order.
“We still recommend gathering with only those in your household,” said Saunders. “We recommend keeping the numbers small. In high transmission areas, gatherings of 10 or fewer, and in low transmission rates 50 people or fewer.”
“Bringing in people [from] outside of your home will increase the risk of COVID-19,” said Gov. Herbert. “Smaller is better when it comes to minimizing the risk.”
Additionally, the governor told Utahns not to hold pot luck style turkey dinners.
Even though there is no limit on private property gatherings, UDOH recommends wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing around one another.
Thanksgiving travel and gatherings
State leaders and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have encouraged people to stay home and cancel travel for Thanksgiving.
Just two weeks ago, Gov. Herbert instituted a new State of Emergency along with regulations to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The regulations included a statewide mask mandate, limited gatherings, and a curfew on alcohol sales at bars and restaurants.
Although the request for limited gatherings has been lifted, the rest of the regulations remain in place.
The maks mandate is still in place. Masks are required throughout the entire state in public places where physical distancing is not feasible. At public mass gatherings, like sporting events and theater performances, masks are also required.
COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations over the last several weeks have continued to break records, with the most recent record on Nov. 20, when the state of Utah reported 4,588 new cases of the virus.
On Monday, the state reported 2,244 new cases of COVID-19, that 545 more Utahns were hospitalized, and that four additional Utahns had died of COVID-19.
School extracurriculars can resume under the Transmission Index
Beginning next Monday, extracurricular activities at Utah public schools will be allowed to resume under certain conditions.
All participants, including coaches, students, trainers, and staff must be tested for COVID-19 every other week. If anyone tests positive for the virus, that person cannot participate until they’ve concluded their isolation period.
The rules are a little different for club sports.
“Club sports continue to be a concern for us,” said Saunders. “We’ve put them under a public health order.”
The order asks all participants in club sports, including dance studios, gymnastic gyms, volleyball gyms, and similar businesses to have their temperatures and symptom checks prior to entering the facility.
Quarantine and masks in the workplace
Businesses will also be able to change employee quarantine protocol. Exposed employees are now allowed to get tested for COVID-19 after 7 days into a quarantine period. A negative result will clear them for work.
Dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, Taylor Randall, also discussed a new study about masks and the economy.
According to the findings of a study conducted by researchers for the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis at the David Eccles School of Business, masks help the economic recovery. The analysis looked at all 3,142 U.S. counties.
Randall said their research found that wearing a mask creates a triple play.
“It helps slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, it also increases consumer mobility in stores, and restaurants and also increase consumer spending,” Randall said.
Additionally, one key finding of the study differentiates between mask mandates issued by the state as opposed to those issued by individual counties.
The researchers say the benefits of increased consumer mobility in stores and restaurants, as well as increased consumer spending, occur when statewide mask mandates were in place.
“State mask mandates are the key to these findings,” said Randall “County mandates don’t have an effect.”
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