Utah Dept. Of Health Clarifies Mass Gathering Instructions During Virus Outbreak
Mar 21, 2020, 4:33 PM | Updated: 4:36 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Officials with the Utah Department of Health have issued a new public health order clarifying instructions for mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Implementing rigorous social distancing measures is crucial to preventing the spread of novel coronavirus, but we don’t want Utahns to feel like we are threatening them with criminal prosecution,” said Governor Gary Herbert. “We strongly encourage Utahns to follow state recommendations to avoid group gatherings, so we can reduce the number of COVID-19 cases we see in Utah.”
The @UtahDepOfHealth has clarified the state's recommendations on mass gatherings. We recommend you avoid gatherings larger than 10 — individuals over 60 and those who are immunocompromised should avoid contact with others. pic.twitter.com/JtVzXlY3tS
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) March 21, 2020
A public health order issued on Tuesday closed dine-in services at all restaurants, bars and other foodservice establishments in the state.
Gatherings of 10 or more people were also prohibited under Tuesday’s order, and confusion ensued after health departments in Salt Lake and Utah counties said violations of the order may result in a Class B misdemeanor under state law.
Saturday’s order clarified that the state recommends individuals and businesses should avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and local prosecutors were “encouraged to exercise discretion in making any charging decisions due to a violation of this order.”
The new order “is to protect individuals’ health and not to hold them criminally liable,” health officials said.
We call upon all people to act rationally and with the good faith and commonsense that has defined our state and her people since its beginning.
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) March 20, 2020
In the new order, health officials said anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should avoid any physical gathering or event, regardless of size.
They also said the recommendation does not apply to critical government services such as fire, police or emergency response, and other services like hospitals, grocery stores, and the shipping, airline and transportation industries.
“These industries are encouraged to use appropriate precautions to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, and are also encouraged to make critical services available,” the order said.
Officials added the order should not be interpreted to suggest a business shouldn’t have more than 10 employees at a single location and it does not apply to families with more than 10 people and licensed residential care providers.
The new public health order will remain in effect through April 1, unless further extended. The full order can be read here.
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How Do I Prevent It?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.
How To Get Help
If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.
If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.