SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County officials have again extended a mask mandate, this time to the end of the year.
“We know that face coverings work to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said Wednesday. The county also extended its emergency order, helping it to continue to draw upon federal aid to deal with the novel coronavirus.
“The steps we have taken in Salt Lake County are working as we’d hoped,” Salt Lake County communications director Chloe Moroni said. “But the threat of COVID still remains.”
County officials said that should a point be reached when the data and public health experts say face coverings are no longer necessary, the order could be rescinded early.
“Until we have a vaccine, we need to continue to battle COVID-19,” Wilson said.
Salt Lake City is the only location in the state that remains in the orange, or moderate restriction category, according to the state’s guidelines for recovery. Some parts of the state have moved to green (minimal restrictions), but the majority of Utah is yellow, a low restriction level that urges caution, maintaining social distancing and wearing of face coverings wherever proper distancing isn’t possible.
The Salt Lake County health district was the first in Utah to adopt a local mandate requiring face coverings in public, and since implementing that order, Wilson said case numbers, as well as transmission of disease, has diminished.
In addition to Salt Lake County, other areas of the state with mask mandates include Summit and Grand counties, and the cities of Springdale and Logan. Wednesday evening, Grand County announced it too is extending a requirement for face coverings through the end of the year.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has repeatedly declined to issue a mask mandate, hoping instead that Utahns will “do the right thing to protect their neighbors.” He has, however, encouraged businesses and the private sector to require masks and believes that large retailers requiring masks has helped slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Utah. He has also ordered that masks be worn in schools and in state buildings.
While the number of new cases of COVID-19 has been gradually declining, Wednesday’s increase was one of the highest in recent days in Utah.
The Utah Department of Health reported another 364 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as eight new deaths resulting from the virus. There have been 47,521 cases of COVID-19 in Utah since the pandemic reached the state in March.
Wednesday’s reported deaths include two Salt Lake County men, between the ages of 65 and 84, who were both residents at long-term care facilities; a Cache County man between 45 and 64, also a long-term care facility resident at the time of his death; and, a Utah County woman older than 85 who was also a long-term care facility resident.
Others include a San Juan County woman between 65-84; a Utah County man between the ages of 65 and 84; a Weber County man between 45-64; and a Weber County woman between the ages of 65 and 84 — all of whom were hospitalized at the time of their passing.
The new deaths bring the state’s COVID-19-related death toll to 377. There are 139 people currently hospitalized with the virus in Utah.
Another 3,846 people were tested since Tuesday, bringing the total number of people tested in Utah to 610,362.
In addition to TestUtah sites, which provide patients with a specific time to arrive for testing, University of Utah Health is now allowing people to reserve a time to be tested for COVID-19 at any of its four in-car testing sites, including Sugar House, South Jordan, Redwood and Farmington.
“We want patients to be able to have a convenient option to schedule ahead of time, so they don’t wait as long,” said Michael Bronson, administrative director at U. Health Community Clinics. Wait times at drive-up testing clinics across the state have ranged from a few minutes to a few hours during the biggest surge in cases following some popular summer holidays.
While patients now have the option to reserve a time — either through the health care system’s electronic record service called MyChart, online at healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/testing-covid.php, or by calling the U.’s coronavirus hotline, at 801-587-0712 — appointments are not necessary to be tested.
“The purpose is to create a better experience for patients,” Bronson said.
Fewer people have been getting tested for COVID-19 in recent weeks, leaving enough testing capacity available for anyone with even mild symptoms. Criteria for testing has not changed and anyone who reserves a testing spot can still expect to be asked a series of questions to determine whether a test is necessary.
The latest rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 346 per day, with a seven-day average percent of positive tests being 8.9%
At least 38,883 Utah-based cases of COVID-19 are considered to be recovered at this point.
For more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.
The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:
- Salt Lake County, 22,102; 1,439 hospitalized; 217 deaths.
- Utah County, 9,683; 450 hospitalized; 41 deaths.
- Davis County, 3,466; 196 hospitalized; 21 deaths.
- Southwest Utah, 3,384; 191 hospitalized; 26 deaths.
- Weber-Morgan, 3,040; 191 hospitalized; 28 deaths.
- Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 2,413; 117 hospitalized; 9 deaths.
- Summit County, 765; 53 hospitalized; 1 death.
- San Juan County, 658; 88 hospitalized; 27 deaths.
- Tooele County, 629; 30 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- Wasatch County, 601; 26 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
- Central Utah, 467; 27 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
- TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 193; 16 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
- Southeast Utah, 120; 8 hospitalized; 1 death.