Gov. Gary Herbert praised the people of Utah on Tuesday for their diligence in social distancing and helping to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus. He announced that the state could safely move from the “red,” or high-risk zone, to the moderate “orange” level as part of Utah’s coronavirus plan, entering the stabilization phase of recovery.

The declaration is no doubt welcome news to many local business owners who have been waiting for the opportunity to open their doors. The Utah spirit of collaboration is what led to what Herbert called, “A good news day.”

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The change in restrictions will take effect Friday. Among other the adjustments is the ability for people to gather in groups of up to 20. Observing social distancing guidelines and wearing protective masks is still necessary. It also allows restaurants to permit guests to dine in, provided the owners can establish proper distance between guest tables, wear masks and test the temperature of workers. They should also properly clean surfaces to entertain guests inside. Salons will also be allowed to reopen with similar precautions.

Additionally, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox announced a new program, “A mask for every Utahn.” The program, a partnership with the Utah Manufacturers Association, will provide 2 million masks to Utahns, upon request, at no cost. It’s a good indication of progress in the fight against COVID-19. 

The program is one more example of the kind of public/private partnership Utah is known for. The Utah Manufacturer’s Association, along with Cotopaxi and 20 other manufacturers in the state, will work to produce the masks and send them to residents in need across the state. 

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And it’s a program that, unfortunately, is needed more than it ought to be. Masks will be a vital component to the next phase of the recovery. Herbert noted his disappointment in the number of people who choose not to wear a mask at grocery stores and encouraged all Utahns to wear a mask in public, especially as communities begin to socialize again.

It is imperative for Utahns to remain vigilant.

It is imperative for Utahns to remain vigilant. A rush into the public square without proper distancing and mask wearing could cause a spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The hard-won progress Utah has obtained could vanish.

We applaud the people of Utah for showing the nation how to unite, rally and sacrifice for the common good. The Utah model of cooperation and collaboration of its residents, combined with the power of public/private partnerships to help the most vulnerable, is commendable.

We urge Utahns to rise to the task of this next phase. It is not a time to retreat from the sound advice of health experts or the headway the state has made. It should a time to renew the fight and unify in taking care of one another. Being cautiously optimistic while remaining vigilant in our behavior will continue to save lives and accelerate an economic restart.

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