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With cases still spiking, Utah County starts implementing more restrictions

Olivia Smith, Draper Park seventh grader, gets tested for COVID-19 outside of Corner Canyon High School in Draper on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. The Salt Lake County Health Department will be offering COVID-19 testing at Corner Canyon High School again on Monday, Sept. 28, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Olivia Smith, Draper Park seventh grader, gets tested for COVID-19 outside of Corner Canyon High School in Draper on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. The Salt Lake County Health Department will be offering COVID-19 testing at Corner Canyon High School again on Monday, Sept. 28, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PROVO — On top of a mask mandate just issued for Utah County, areas of the county have also been asked to limit gathering sizes and keep children from congregating in groups.

The Utah Department of Health reported 877 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 65,921 infections since mid-March.

The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 876 per day, with a rolling seven-day average percent positivity of 14.2%.

There are 171 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Utah, according to the health department.

Another death was added to the state’s toll — which has now reached 444. The life belonged to a Salt Lake County woman older than 85 years old, who was not hospitalized at the time of her death.

The health department estimates 52,357 cases of the state’s total number of infections are recovered.

Due to increasingly problematic case counts, Orem and Provo were moved Tuesday by state health officials to the orange or moderate level of restriction beginning at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. The rest of the state is in either the yellow or green phase of recovery, depending on the data available in those areas.

While the color-coded guidance system doesn’t indicate risk of disease, it provides behavioral recommendations for residents.

The orange restriction level:

  • Limits gatherings to 20 people or fewer, encouraging mainly people living in the same home or others of close relation known to be following social distancing and public health guidelines.
  • Children should not have playdates with kids from other families, or play on public playgrounds.
  • Gyms and fitness centers must close unless proper physical distancing is maintained and cleaning processes are happening more frequently. Public swimming pools are advised to only open to lap swimmers.
  • Restaurants should encourage carry-out and delivery business, exercising extreme caution with limited dine-in options.
  • Hotels and motels should operate under extreme safety precautions.

The yellow phase puts forth fewer restrictions, allowing gatherings of up to 50 people and open playgrounds, though patrons are still encouraged to maintain proper social distancing. Restaurants and bars are open to dine-in patrons under guidelines for the yellow phase.

There are no restrictions on gathering in the green phase, which has also been called the “new normal.” But social distancing is still recommended, as well as hand hygiene.

Utah has cycled through the color-coded guidelines, starting with the most restrictive, red, in early March, when the recovery plan was first implemented. The state wasn’t classified red for long, but stayed in orange for several weeks.

In mid-May, most of the state moved from the orange phase to yellow, which allowed more businesses to open, including more dine-in options. Higher restrictions remained for most of Salt Lake City, until numbers stabilized a little throughout hot spots.

The capital city ultimately transitioned to the yellow phase in the first week of September.

That move has been partially credited to the fact that a mask mandate — ordered throughout Salt Lake County in late June and recently extended through the end of the year — helped contain various COVID-19 outbreaks inside and outside of Salt Lake City.

Similar mask mandates are in effect in Summit and Grand counties and in Logan.

Public health officials have said masks need to be used to protect the most vulnerable of Utah’s population. The people most at risk of severe disease and death resulting from the novel coronavirus include anyone over age 65 and people with underlying conditions.

A letter to the Utah County community announcing the Utah County mask mandate that was issued late Tuesday, reminds residents that face coverings help prevent the spread of the disease.

“While our youngest and healthiest residents may not be as susceptible to the severe symptoms of this virus, an outbreak places many of our more vulnerable residents at risk and altso threatens to limit our ability to continue the economic, educational, social and recreational activities that help this community thrive,” said the letter signed by Utah County Health Director Ralph Clegg and two of the three Utah County Commissioners, Tanner Ainge and Nathan Ivie.

“We want the message for our residents to be as clear as possible: When in public and unable to consistently maintain a safe distance, we are expected to wear face coverings.”

The Utah County mask mandate expires Oct. 20 “unless extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing and shall be reevaluated as warranted,” the public health order states.

For more information on Utah’s color-coded guidance system, as well as statewide COVID-19 data, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.