SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a new state of emergency declaration for Utah on Thursday.

“We certainly don’t want to risk losing help from the federal government,” he said during his monthly televised PBS news conference, which returned Thursday after a monthslong hiatus while Herbert dealt with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all know these are really challenging times,” he said. “We have not had a pandemic of this magnitude certainly in any of our lifetimes.”

The current declaration was set to expire at midnight Thursday. The new order goes through Sept. 19. He also extended the mandate for masks in state buildings through the same time period as well as the state’s phased guidelines, with Salt Lake City remaining the only entity in the state in the orange or moderate restriction phase.

Utah lawmakers have recommended against renewing the state of emergency, saying the state needs to rely on its own efforts to get back to normal. But Herbert said the state stands to lose $14 million in federal funding that is helping with tracking and tracing the virus in Utah, providing hundreds of millions for lost wage assistance, and more.

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Lawmakers see no reason to extend Utah governor’s emergency orders dealing with COVID-19

“The list goes on and on of what we would risk losing,” he said. “Most of that money is generated from the people of Utah.”

Herbert said renewing the state of emergency, which allows the governor to more quickly and effectively execute various orders, is “the wise and prudent thing to do.”

“We do know we still have challenges with the COVID-19,” he said. “People are still dying, the infection rates are still too high and growing. I like the trends ... but it is still affecting a disproportionate amount of our minorities.”

Typically, emergency declarations are used following a natural disaster, which lasts only a few days or up to 30. Utah has now been in a state of emergency for several months, due to the novel coronavirus and its impact on “every aspect of our society,” Herbert said.

Every state in the United States, including the federal government, he said, has an emergency declaration currently in place. Herbert said he doesn’t know what the future holds or whether he will need to issue further declarations for this “unpredictable” and “complicated” COVID-19 situation.

“We’re not out of the woods yet on this pandemic,” he said. “Our goals are still the same. We want to protect the lives and the health and welfare of our people. It is the responsibility of all of us to work together.

Four more deaths reported in state

Another 461 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in Utah on Thursday, bringing the state’s total number of known infections to 47,982, according to the Utah Department of Health. At least 615,804 people in Utah have been tested for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The rolling seven-day average, which gives public health officials a better picture of the current state of the virus in Utah, is 364 positive tests per day, with 8.8% of tests in the last seven days resulting in positive diagnoses.

In addition to new cases, four more Utahns have died because of COVID-19.

The new deaths include two Salt Lake County women, one older than 85 years of age and the other between the ages of 65 and 84, who were both residents at a long-term care facility when they died; a Salt Lake County man, between the ages of 65 and 84, who was also a resident at a long-term health care facility; and a Utah County woman between the ages of 45 and 64, who was also a resident at a long-term health care facility.

Three hundred eighty-one people in Utah have died from COVID-19 thus far.

There are currently 139 people being treated for COVID-19 at hospitals throughout the state, with 2,853 total hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

The health department estimates that 39,364 people with known infections have recovered at this point, after passing more than three weeks since a diagnosis and not having passed away.

Cars lines up at a COVID-19 testing spot as University of Utah Health’s Wellness Bus visits the Sorenson Multicultural Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. | Yukai Peng, Deseret News

New emergency declaration begins Friday

Herbert said the new state of emergency, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, is out of concern for the state’s health care systems, which may still become overwhelmed by a potential surge following the reopening of schools this week and next.

“It’s a reflection point to pause and see what happens so we don’t create a serious problem that we can’t address,” he said.

Other extended orders include suspending:

• Public access to Board of Pardons and Parole hearings.

• Post-retirement reemployment restrictions.

• Licensing forfeitures regarding bars and restaurants at risk of losing liquor permit because of closures due to the pandemic.

• Rules relating to telehealth services.

The governor also noted COVID-19 has slowed Utahns’ response to the 2020 U.S. census, which so far, has a 68% response rate. Herbert said an accurate count of Utahns and their demographics is important for a variety of reasons, but particularly to determine the amount of federal funds that gets returned to the state for things like education, roads, public safety, as well as political representation, among others. Participation, he said, is lower than expected in Emery, Wayne, San Juan, Piute and Garfield counties.

To participate in the 2020 U.S. census, visit my2020census.gov or call, 1-844-330-2020.

Herbert thanked health care providers, scientists and others who are working to keep people safe throughout the state. He said Utahns’ “united and focused efforts” have helped get to a point where schools can be reopened to children who need that “critical resource” in their lives.

“Even if it doesn’t last, it’s important that we start, and it’s important that we try,” Herbert said. He is encouraged that so many people have come together to provide a safe environment for teachers and students, but also to create opportunities for students to learn at home.

The state has provided five face masks and two face shields to each faculty and staff, and while some schools might be reporting short supply, he said “we have enough and we’ll get more if we need it.”

“At this time of pandemic, we all need to respect each other. I think that’s why you wear the mask ... because it’s the right thing to do,” Herbert said.

The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:

  • Salt Lake County, 22,302; 1,449 hospitalized; 220 deaths.
  • Utah County, 9,804; 454 hospitalized; 42 deaths.
  • Davis County, 3,496; 198 hospitalized; 21 deaths.
  • Southwest Utah, 3,408; 191 hospitalized; 26 deaths.
  • Weber-Morgan, 3,074; 192 hospitalized; 28 deaths.
  • Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 2,427; 120 hospitalized; 9 deaths.
  • Summit County, 787; 53 hospitalized; 1 death.
  • San Juan County, 659; 88 hospitalized; 27 deaths.
  • Tooele County, 634; 30 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • Wasatch County, 604; 25 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
  • Central Utah, 472; 29 hospitalized; 2 deaths.
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 195; 16 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • Southeast Utah, 120; 8 hospitalized; 1 death.
Dakota Sliva administers a COVID-19 test to a patient as University of Utah Health’s Wellness Bus visits the Sorenson Multicultural Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.
Dakota Sliva administers a COVID-19 test to a patient as University of Utah Health’s Wellness Bus visits the Sorenson Multicultural Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. | Yukai Peng, Deseret News