Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday that the state would begin lifting coronavirus restrictions and allow some businesses to reopen beginning on Friday.
Herbert said he intends to move the state from a “red” or high level of risk from the COVID-19 outbreak to “orange” or moderate risk level.
“This is not going back to business as usual,” said Herbert. “We still have risks for COVID-19, but this is an opportunity for us to open up more economic opportunity.”
Moving from “red” to “orange” means that businesses should still allow employees to work remotely wherever possible. However, some restaurants may begin offering inside dining options so long as they can maintain proper social distancing and cleanliness and hygeinic protocols.
Gyms and fitness centers may be permitted to open so long as employees wear face coverings and customers remain at an acceptable distance.
Herbert says most of the restrictions that were previously put in place to help stem the spread of the coronavirus will remain in place, with a few modifications. For example, the number of people allowed to gather in public will increase from groups of 10 to 20.
Herbert says despite the relaxing of restrictions, Utahns should continue to wear masks in public.
“I am a little disappointed when I go into the grocery store and see that many of the customers are not wearing masks,” he said.
To that end, the state announced a plan to provide a free mask for any Utahn who wants one. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox says residents can request a free mask on the state’s coronavirus website, coronavirus.utah.gov/mask. The program will provide up to 2 million masks for residents.
“In the coming weeks, we will be focused on getting masks out to underserved populations. If everyone is wearing a mask, it will help slow the spread of this virus to others,” said Cox.
Cox says funding for the program comes from the federal CARES act. The state’s website was quickly overwhelmed with demand shortly after the program was announced.
Despite the change in risk status, Herbert said Utahns should remain cautious and vigilant.
“We’re going from high risk to moderate risk except for those who are in the most vulnerable populations. We’re trying to thread the needle and find the appropriate balance as we move to this new designation,” added Herbert.