After members of a Utah commission voted unanimously Tuesday, June 2 to forward a recommendation to Gov. Gary Herbert that the state move to the lowest risk phase in the state’s COVID-19 response guidelines, Herbert overruled the recommendation, instead extending the state’s current guidelines another week, through June 12.
“Common sense requires keeping our current health risk guidance in place,” Herbert said Friday, June 5 in response to the commission’s recommendation. “We all want to return to more normal patterns of life as soon as possible, but we also do not want to take a step back in our progress against this disease and our reactivation of the economy. A marked increase in disease incidence and in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 give us pause. We will continue to analyze data trends with an eye toward balancing overall health risks and protecting high risk populations.”
Under the current yellow risk phase that encompasses the state — save for Salt Lake City, Mexican Hat and Bluff, which are still in the orange risk phase — no economic activities are “categorically” prohibited, according to Herbert.
In Moab, being in the yellow risk phase has meant a lifting of restrictions on lodging businesses, against the advice of the local health department and Grand County Council. Local officials who had pushed for Moab being at a higher risk phase applauded Herbert’s decision Friday.
“[The Southeast Utah Health Department] applauds this decision as it allows us more time to evaluate the situation in each of our three counties after the general relaxing of restrictions throughout the state,” said Brady Bradford, director of the health department, after Herbert announced his decision. “SEUHD also endorses the concept of addressing the risk levels of counties or cities in place of a broad statewide assignment of restriction or risk levels.”
Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan also applauded the decision, with a reminder that the governor had recently declined the county’s efforts to remain at the higher, orange risk phase.
“Of course, the Grand County Council already decided that a modified orange risk level, per our Public Health Order dated May 28, 2020, effective May 29 through June 25, 2020, is the safest risk level for our community now — not yellow,” Sloan said. “However, the governor rejected that order in its entirety. Thus, Grand County appreciates the governor keeping the State at yellow for now.”
Herbert said in his Friday statement that he “strongly” urges Utahns to use face coverings alongside practicing social distancing and good hygiene.
“I know that wearing masks looks and feels different, but it is an easy, low-cost practice that will help us return to normal,” Herbert said. “I believe that wearing masks has helped to reduce the asymptomatic spread of the virus among state officials even as we have been working long hours together in close quarters.”