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State Moves Provo, Orem Back To Orange Phase Due To COVID-19 Spike

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – State health officials on Tuesday announced Provo and Orem will have tightened restrictions following a dramatic spike in new COVID-19 cases.

The spike that began with 1,117 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday. On Tuesday, an additional 650 new cases were reported, and the seven-day rolling average for positive laboratory tests ticked up to 13.9%.

“This is the first time that we have rolled restrictions backward,” Herbert said.”We recognize these adjustments will cause some inconvenience, but frankly, intervention is needed. And at this point, it’s either a little pain now or a lot more pain later.”

Rich Saunders, the executive director of the Utah Department of Health, said the state reviewed several indicators before making the decision to move the two Utah County cities from yellow to orange, including the 14-day rolling average, the statewide non-ICU and ICU utilization, and the 7-day average percent of positive lab tests.

“Our goal is to get this section of Utah County out of orange as quickly as possible,” he said. “We invite the Utah County Health Department and the Utah County Commission to continue working with our state health department to craft a program that will get them out of orange.”

Saunders also noted that Utah County is considering a countywide mask mandate, and he said the state’s Unified Command leadership supports that direction.

However, the state will allow for team sports to continue but with no spectators present.

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Saunders said the economic impact of overwhelming hospital networks would be worse than the impact of temporary health restrictions.

He also announced that Rich County will move to the green phase at midnight, bringing the total number of counties in the minimal level of restriction to 14. With the exception of Provo and Orem, the entire state is in either the yellow or green level of the state’s health guidance system.

The governor warned that if the outbreaks are not controlled, then Utah County will be moved to the orange phase.

“We understand that some will get sick through no risky behavior of their own,” Herbert said. “It’s OK to get sick. It’s not OK to put others at risk by refusing to test, continuing to socialize when sick, or not letting people you’ve exposed know that they and their families may be at risk.”

“This is not about mandates,” he added. “This is about communities coming together and us as citizens doing what needs to be done to slow the pandemic spread. We have a shared responsibility. Working together is the only way to have success.”

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi released a statement on the move to orange phase. “While disappointing news, this announcement can and should serve as a community rallying cry to more vigilantly follow health guidelines so we can quickly move back to Yellow to protect our local economy from further damage. Provo City now begins the task of determining additional restrictions required by Governor Herbert’s directive and will be communicating these changes to our citizens. We appreciate the past and continuing efforts of our community to be compliant with safety guidelines. We hope the Governor’s announcement is not a cause of discouragement to our citizens and business owners, but rather becomes an incentive to show how effective we can be when we fight COVID-19 together.”

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