Gov. Gary Herbert and other state officials revealed new COVID-19 pandemic guidelines during a live-streamed press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“Seven months have passed since we had our first recorded case of the coronavirus,” Herbert said at the beginning of the press conference. “So much has changed in that short period of time.”
Herbert also announced the transition from a state of emergency to a statewide public health emergency.
“We are having one of the worst outbreaks in the country and this is unacceptable,” Herbert said. “You and your family deserve good health and the best efforts from the government to help you go back to normal activities as soon as possible. It’s time for a new game plan.”
Herbert said that he and healthcare professionals created the new guidance system to lower case counts.
Based upon data points, each county will be categorized as at a low, moderate, or high transmission level.
In high level counties masks are required.
In moderate level counties masks are required until Oct. 29. After that date masks are strongly recommended by public health officials, but mask requirements will be at the discretion of county executives in consultation with the local health officer.
In low level counties masks are strongly recommended by public health officials, but mask requirements will be at the discretion of county executives in consultation with the local health officer.
Currently, Tooele County is in the moderate level, which means masks are required by a state public health order until Oct. 29.
However, Tooele County Health Department executive director and health officer Jeff Coombs has warned that if Tooele County has another week of new COVID-19 cases like last week the County may end up in the high level.
Each week, the Utah Department of Health will analyze three data points for each county — 14-day case rate per 100,000 population, 7-day average percent positivity, and state-wide ICU utilization, according to Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist.
Based upon that data, the county will be categorized as a low, moderate, or high transmission area.
There are ranges set for each the transmission levels for each of the data points.
Counties will be put into one of the three transmission levels, when two of the three data points in the county are within the range for that transmission level. (See the accompanying chart.)
There are restrictions other than mask wearing that are based on the transmission level, such as casual social gatherings, public indoor and outdoor settings, public gatherings, restaurants, and bars.
The new guidance system can be found at coronavirus.utah.gov.
On Wednesday, the governor declared a state-wide public health emergency.
Prior to this, the state was considered to be in a state of emergency.
The order is in place until otherwise modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded.
On Oct. 2, President Donald Trump declared a nation-wide public health emergency.
“This allows us to focus only on the public health needs of the people of Utah,” Herbert stated.
Herbert said that most hospitals and ICU’S have reached almost maximum capacities with 15.8% of icu beds being used for patients infected with the virus.
A field hospital may be opened at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy because of the increase in cases.
Rich Saunders, Utah Department of Health Director, encouraged everybody to wear masks during the press conference.
“We ask that masks be worn no matter the transmission level in this particular stage of the virus,” he said.
Saunders said masks are required when attending events of public gathering and in high transmission areas masks are required in all public indoor settings.
Herbert said he is looking forward to a vaccine that will end the pandemic.
“I join with you in praying for a safe and effective vaccine that will allow us to resume our more normal patterns of life,” he said.