White House report says Utah is still in the ‘red zone’ for coronavirus and calls for statewide mask mandate

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Last week, Utah was one of 18 states considered to be in the federal “red zone” for coronavirus according to a report prepared for the White House. The latest version of that report says Utah remains in the red zone and should implement a statewide mask mandate to slow the spread of the virus.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Utah remained under red on the latest report, dated July 26, which calls for further restrictions due to the virus. The number of states considered to be “red zone” areas grew from 18 to 21. The full report is here. The report was prepared by the White House coronavirus task force and is shared with state officials, but is not made public.

Although Utah’s number of cases has been falling recently, the report says the state is in the red zone for cases and yellow zone for the percentage of positive tests. Utah is reporting 137 new cases per 100,000 persons, which is slightly below the national average of 140 new cases per 100,000. States considered to be under red should implement stricter policies to prevent further spread of the virus. 

The report recommends Utah close bars and limit in-person dining in restaurants to slow the transmission of the virus, as well as enacting a statewide mask mandate. Governor Gary Herbert has so far refused to implement a statewide mask requirement but has allowed individual cities and counties to require face coverings in public. 

There has been some improvement from the previous report. In the July 14 version, two cities in Utah, St. George and Salt Lake City, along with five counties were said to be “red zone” areas. The newer document has zero Utah cities, and only 3 counties are in the red – San Juan, Kane and Garfield. There are now 8 Utah cities that are considered to be yellow, double the number from the last report. 15 counties are considered yellow. The last report listed 10 counties under yellow.

The report recommends counties tagged as red should limit social gatherings to fewer than 10 people while closing bars, gyms and create outdoor dining opportunities. Counties and cities that are under yellow should limit gatherings to 25 people, close bars and limit gym occupancy to 25 percent of capacity. The report says all businesses, either under red or yellow, should require masks for patrons and allow for safe social distancing.

Utah reported 339 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, which was the lowest single-day count in more than a month. The rolling 7-day average of new cases sits at 516. Gov. Gary Herbert set a goal for the state to hit a 7-day average of 500 cases or less by August 1. 

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