White House document says Utah is in the coronavirus ‘red zone’and should return to more restrictive measures

Coronavirus 07

A document prepared for the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, but not made public, recommends Utah should close bars and gyms to stop the spread of Covid-19 in two cities and five counties.

The Center for Public Integrity published the document, dated July 14, on Thursday. It says 18 states, including Utah are in the “red zone” for coronavirus cases, meaning they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents last week. Utah was also in the “yellow zone” for positive s.tests in the last week, meaning between 5 and 10 percent returned positive.

“The trend in the recent days is very concerning in Utah. If actions are taken early, there can be a dramatic decline in cases,” reads the first bullet point under recommended actions for the state. 

The document recommends that Utah close bars and gyms in “hot spot counties.” It also says Utah should move to outdoor dining for restaurants, limit indoor dining to less than 25 percent capacity and decrease limits for gatherings to 10 people or less. 



Both Salt Lake City and St. George are listed as “red zone” cities in the document. Salt Lake, Washington, Tooele, Millard and San Juan counties are also considered to be in the danger area. Provo-Orem, Ogden-Clearfield, Logan and Heber are cities tagged as “yellow zone,” as are 10 counties.

Salt Lake City is currently in the “orange” or “moderate phase of the state’s coronavirus risk ratings, which limits in-person dining and prohibits gatherings of 20 or fewer. It’s the only area of the state under “orange.”

St. George and Washington County are under Utah’s “yellow” guidance, which limits gatherings to 50 people or fewer and also allows restaurants to open with appropriate physical distancing. All other businesses are allowed to open under yellow. Tooele and San Juan counties are also under yellow despite being classified by the document as “red zone’ counties.

Millard county, which is also a “red zone” area has implemented Utah’s “green” or “new normal” coronavirus guidelines.

Of the 10 counties in the document’s “yellow zone,” Beaver, Kane and Garfield counties have moved to Utah’s “green” guidelines. The seven others are under Utah’s “low” risk guidelines.

The report says the document is published weekly and shared with governors. 

Gov. Herbert’s office acknowledged Thursday evening that they had received the document from the White House.

“The White House sends us regular reports on Utah’s COVID-19 status, including data and recommendations,” said a spokesperson via text message. “The data seems to correspond well with our own data, and we appreciate their suggestions. Those recommendations generally track well with the actions our state and local health departments are already pursuing, though of course our actions are more targeted on the specific circumstances of our outbreaks.”

Utah paused their rapid march toward lifting coronavirus restrictions on June 11 following a spike in the number of cases after the Memorial Day holiday. 

Gov. Gary Herbert has repeatedly called on Utahns to wear masks when they are in public to help slow the spread of the virus, but he has so far declined to make face coverings mandatory statewide. 

On Thursday, Gov. Herbert said the state would be modifying its risk-factor guidance to allow Salt Lake City schools to open for in-person classes in the fall. Last week he said masks would be mandatory for students, teachers and staff in Utah’s K-12 schools after ordering those schools to open in the fall.