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The governor of Utah declared a new state of emergency late Sunday after the state̵7;s most devastating pandemic week, when COVID-19 infections skyrocketed and deaths hit new highs. His major concern was that the surge in hospital admissions could soon overwhelm doctors and nurses.
Governor Gary Herbert enacted a new set of restrictions, including statewide masking regulations – a step he had resisted for months.
Unlike other restrictions, the governor intends to expand the masking mission “for the foreseeable future.” Businesses that do not comply will be penalized.
The new executive orders were signed by Herbert and Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer Cox, who was elected by the governor. They restrict all social gatherings for people in the same household and keep all of the school’s extracurricular activities, including sporting and in-house events.
These restrictions take effect at 1pm on Monday and will end on November 23, just a few days before Thanksgiving. The governor said the state would make vacation recommendations in the coming days.
This order does not require any business to shut down, but businesses and event organizers must ask to stay away from society.
The order does not apply to churches.
New restrictions do not preclude professional or college sports or the completion of a knockout round in high school as long as coaches and athletes have negative results and a limited audience serious processing. The command says that there can be two attendees per player or coach.
Restaurants can only accommodate people in the same household and must be able to keep groups 6 feet apart. Bars are required to close at 10 pm every night.
“Utah is open for business. You can still shop, have dinner or perform, exercise, worship and recreate, and more, ”Herbert said in a video message. “We’re just saying to stay in your household group whenever possible, especially for the next two weeks.”
Herbert has said that state and local governments will crack down on “organizers of public gatherings that fail to take the mandatory precautions of leaving society and wearing masks”. Organizers, he said, would face a fine of up to $ 10,000 per appearance. This happened after the numerous dance parties held in Utah County attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of young people, many without masks. And some clubs in Salt Lake County have bypassed the task of wearing a mask there.
The emergency order came after frustrated and weary medical experts complained that Herbert and the state had not taken strong enough steps to stop the spread out of control by COVID-19. Some have called for home stay orders, although the steps approved by Herbert are far from over.
“In the fight against COVID-19, we need our doctors and nurses,” said Herbert. “And now they need us. They are asking for our help ”.
Utah currently has an average of more than 2,000 cases per day and 46 people died from the virus last week. On Sunday, the state reported 424 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 operations, a figure that has increased from 299 two weeks ago.
Dr Edward Stenehjem said: “This is an acknowledgment from the governor that something has to change, that we are on an unsustainable path given our number of cases and we must have some kind of massive disruption to actually stop community-based transmission. , an infectious disease specialist at Intermountain Healthcare. “And so this is a good first step.”
The incubation period of COVID-19 is approximately two weeks. That means new restrictions often take weeks to determine if they are making the expected impact.
“If we want to be safe on the holiday season, for sure Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have to reduce our filing rates now,” Stenehjem said. “And so this two-week pause, drastically reducing the incidence rate will be very important to the health of our communities, as well as the economic health of our communities. “
State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn upheld the new orders, tweeted thank you to the governor and wrote, “It’s time to unite Utah.”
The state informed Utahns through a rare emergency signal sent to cell phones to instruct people to watch or listen to the governor’s message. The state used its one-time emergency warning system before during this pandemic, sending an October 31 notice in part saying “COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Record the cases. Almost every county is a high transmission area ”.
New emergency orders came in less than a month after Herbert replaced the state color-coded restriction level system with a new county-by-district transmission index, placing places where infection rates were found. command high. That change cannot slow the growing number of infections.
Wearing a mask has become a controversial political issue.
The mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have been calling for a statewide order for months, but Herbert is reluctant to advance a mission in more rural areas where COVID-19 is not popular. And he sympathized with those who didn’t want the government to force what they wore.
But the latest rise is hitting every corner of the state.
“We cannot afford to argue this anymore,” said Herbert. “Personal freedom is certainly important, and our government protects it. Laws are made to protect us all. That’s why we have traffic lights, speed limits and seat belts, and that’s why we now have the duty to wear masks.
He added, “It is time for the split to end, and we all as Utahns unite in sacrificing whatever is necessary to help our neighbor and give life to our neighbor. heals back to our state. “
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called Herbert’s orders “overdue” when she encouraged everyone to comply. “Let’s all make these sensible sacrifices.”
Under new statewide regulations, all Utahns must wear masks in public and within 6 feet of anyone they do not live with. Enterprises must require employees and customers to wear masks. Signs must be posted. Businesses that do not comply with this order will face a fine from the Labor Commission, which will be the first time the Utah government will attempt to enforce the masking regulation.
Exceptions to the task of wearing a mask include when a person is eating or drinking, exercising while away from society or when performing in front of an audience.
Additionally, Utah leaders are taking new steps to expand testing and tracing anyone with whom an infected person comes into contact.
As soon as possible, but no later than January 1, all college students who live on campus or take at least one live class per week will be required to test COVID-19 weekly. . This includes public and private colleges.
The University of Utah intends to test all of its students ahead of Thanksgiving break, in response to suggestions from Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Deborah Birx, from the White House Coronavirus Special Forces. Force, who visited Herbert and medical officials last week.
“It’s not just for the safety of the students, but also for the safety of the community they’re coming back,” said U.S. spokesman Chris Nelson, Redfield and Birx.
The state plans to initiate an expedited testing program that will eventually seek to test people age 35 and younger at work. Young adults often have no symptoms, and if they don’t know they have the virus, they are more likely to spread it to others.
Rich Saunders, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, said a targeted, asymptomatic test in younger people in Utah would help slow this increase.
That includes public schools.
State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson encouraged more testing but didn’t want to see schools become virtual, worried that it would leave some students behind. She says students and teachers are very diligent in class and that problems come from social gatherings and extracurricular activities, which the order restricts.
“It’s track and field activities, parties, social gatherings, and family gatherings,” she said. “So my hope is that this will help deal with the virus to minimize it and stop it at school gates.”
But this is not enough, according to the Utah Education Association, which wants middle schools and high schools online.
UEA President Heidi Matthews said: “There is a stark contradiction in calling to limit social gatherings while our public schools continue with the largest class sizes in the country. “. “Our public school educators simply cannot continue to be ignored because of concerns about social exclusion, testing, appropriate isolation measures and workloads.”
Cox, who won the race for governor on Tuesday, said the timing of the action has nothing to do with this week’s election and is instead reacting to two things: that the index New transmission for the counties was too confusing and Utah saw cases spike. week.
He said, “We need to simplify and make the message more direct.”
Cox reiterated that federal officials expect a vaccine to be approved in December and that slow rollout will begin after that.
“Our ability to return to normal will be coming soon,” he said, “but now the time is hard.”