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Utah Lifts Limit On How Many Can Attend Private Gatherings; Mask Mandate Still In Place

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah

State officials said they are not going to tell Utahns how many people they can have in their homes for Thanksgiving, but their safest advice is to stick to the people in your own household.  

Governor Gary Herbert and the state health department updated public health orders that were slated to expire at midnight.  

Herbert said the statewide mask mandate will continue, but the state will eliminate any restrictions on how many people you can have in your home. However, Herbert and state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said they will stick to their own households this Thanksgiving. 

“I don’t think there’s anybody in the state who doesn’t understand what we should be doing,” Herbert said in a teleconference Monday morning. “We just hope that they do it.”

Herbert announced a state of emergency on Nov. 8 that included a statewide mask mandate and limited the number of people who could attend private, social gatherings.

That order expires at midnight, and the restriction on how many people can gather will be lifted.

Utah Department of Health officials announced a few additional changes with the state’s new health order.

Click here for details on Utah’s health guidance levels.

State Promoting Best Practices

Two weeks ago, as Utah’s COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations skyrocketed, Utahns were ordered to eliminate large gatherings at home. Interim State Health Director Rich Saunders said that while the restriction on private gatherings is gone, the safest practice right now is to spend time only with people in your household. He said the guidelines were designed to balance individual liberties and our collective well-being. 

“Their aim is to protect lives and livelihoods,” said Saunders. “So I hope during this time that we can think about one another and what we can do as individuals in the name of a much higher good.” 

Local infectious disease experts and the CDC also advised that Utahns travel and gather only with those living in our immediate households. 

“You increase the risk when you bring people into your home that are from outside of the four walls of your house. That’s just a harsh reality of what the data shows us,” Herbert said.

If you gather anyway: “Practice physical distancing, whenever you can, and wearing masks even though you are among family and friends,” said Saunders.  

Hospitalizations this week reflect the rise in case counts in past weeks. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that people understand those risks and change or alter their Thanksgiving holiday plans accordingly so we don’t continuously have this surge of hospitals needing to alter the way they care for patients,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist. 

Dunn and Herbert said they have adjusted their Thanksgiving plans that typically involve larger crowds, and will only gather with those from their households. 

Saunders said that although the restriction on private gatherings are lifted, health officials are still promoting best practices, including keeping social gatherings to those who live within a single household.

The governor said he wants the state’s residents to have a safe Thanksgiving. He emphasized there is more risk for spread when there are more people from outside households invited to gather indoors in one place for an extended period of time.

Saunders said under Utah’s COVID-19 transmission index, larger public gatherings, such as live theater, sporting events, weddings or entertainment venues, there must be 6 feet social distancing between household groups for counties that are in the “High” transmission category.

At midnight, 26 of the state’s 29 counties will be in the “High” category. Only Dagget, Piute and Rich counties will be placed in the “Low” transmission category.

Mask Mandate Remains In Place

Although the restriction on private gatherings was lifted, the statewide mask mandate remains in place.

Saunders noted that masks are required in all counties, and they should be worn while in public indoors. Utahns should also wear them if they are in public outdoors and social distancing is not feasible.

Athletes and performers are exempt from the mask mandate while either playing or performing, and exceptions to physical distancing requirements may be granted by county executives, Saunders said.

Extracurricular Activities

Part of the previous health order also put a pause on extracurricular activities. Under the new order, beginning Nov. 30, all participants in high school extracurricular activities will be required to be tested for COVID-19 every other week. This will include coaches, trainers and staff.

Saunders said anyone who tests positive will not be allowed to participate in high school extracurriculars until they have completed their isolation period.

Additionally, participants in club sports, recreation leagues, dance studios, gymnastics gyms, volleyball gyms, etc., must be checked for symptoms and exposure before participating in any activities, including practices.

Business Quarantine Procedures

People who have been exposed to the virus will now have the opportunity to return to work sooner that previously required, Saunders said. The procedure is similar to the quarantine protocols that have been in place at Utah’s K-12 schools.

If an employee was exposed at the workplace, that person can be tested on Day 7 or later of the quarantine. If the test returns negative, the employee may return to work.

Saunders added that the business quarantine protocol is at the business owner’s discretion.

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