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New State Guidelines Impact On Church, Social Gatherings

FILE PHOTO: A physically-distanced Utah Symphony rehearsal.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The announcement of a new system of coronavirus guidelines and monitoring in Utah left a number of people confused.

The changes were announced Tuesday by Gov. Gary Herbert, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn and the interim executive director of the Utah Department of Health, Richard Saunders. They take effect Thursday. 

KSL-TV dug a little deeper into where religious services fall under the new directives.

Any sort of religious service or activity that is sponsored and overseen by a church is considered an event, not a social gathering. So that includes Sabbath services, youth groups, official Bible studies and other church-sanctioned activities.

At events, there are no restrictions on the number of people who can attend. However, no matter the level of transmission, everyone must wear a mask.

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In areas at high and moderate transmission level, there must also be six feet between households. 

In low transmission areas, six feet between households is encouraged.

If a group of church members wanted to get together independently, that would fall under a casual social gathering. In high transmission areas, that gathering needs to stay under 10 people.

BREAKING NEWS: Utah will require masks in public gatherings for the majority of counties and strongly recommend them for…

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Tuesday, October 13, 2020

In moderate transmission areas, the maximum number to gather was set at 25. After Oct. 29, more than 25 people can gather, if everyone wears a mask.

In low transmission areas, it’s the same as moderate, but 50 is the maximum.

Gatherings that happen at a venue — like a wedding or a family reunion at an event space — are considered events and have to adhere to the event guidelines.

While the guidelines don’t require masks in those smaller social gatherings, the health department is still encouraging them.

“I think we’ve done a really good job as a society of getting comfortable with wearing masks around strangers. We haven’t quite gotten there with wearing masks around close friends and loved ones in smaller settings,” said Tom Hudachko, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health. “But obviously, if masks are effective around strangers in other settings, they’re also going to be effective around friends and family in these more personal settings.”

Thirty-six states recently have seen a spike in cases.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the rise in cases is due in part to small household gatherings.

“Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting,” he said.

As more and more gatherings will happen in the next few months, the state health officials said from what we understand about masks, they work best as a method of controlling spread or keeping your germs away from others.

“A mask really should be a symbol, not that you’re afraid of somebody, but you’re interested in somebody else’s health, and you’re interested in protecting that individual’s health,” said Hudachko.

For a deeper dive into the guidelines for businesses and individuals, visit the state’s coronavirus website and click “Utah Health Guidance Levels” at the top.

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