SALT LAKE CITY — Hours after a modified Salt Lake County health order went into effect on Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert called for the repeal of the order, as well as a similar order issued by Utah County.
Both counties had modified their original health orders to limit public gatherings to 10 people or fewer for the next 30 days, in order to comply with the state limitations, officials said.
“Local public health may be more restrictive than state law but may not be less restrictive (according to Utah Code 26A-1-106 (2)), so when the state’s order was for 10 people, we had to match that,” Salt Lake County spokesman Nicholas Rupp wrote in an email to KSL.
In the order, it states initial violations of any public health order can be punishable as a Class B misdemeanor and following violations can be punished as Class A misdemeanors.
“Violation of the order is a class B (then class A) misdemeanor because that is what’s defined in Utah Code 26A-1-123 (5)(a)(I) and (ii) as the criminal penalty for violating a public health order,” Rupp wrote in an email to KSL.
Later Thursday evening, Herbert called for the repeal of the order, as well as Utah County’s order, immediately.
“The State of Utah was not consulted on the new orders issued by the Salt Lake and Utah County Departments of Health,” he wrote on Twitter. “The Utah Department of Health has directed these orders be repealed immediately.”
The Salt Lake County order is intended to keep a distance of at least six feet between people to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets, Rupp explained.
"For example, workplaces can have more than 10 people in their building but they should be separated into different rooms or by physical space," Rupp wrote in an email.
A Salt Lake City Police Department public information officer told KSL at this time they are asking for voluntary compliance of the health order.
In a joint statement, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Health Department Executive Director Gary Edwards said no additional restrictions were imposed by the county on Thursday.
“On March 17, following President Trump’s recommendation, the State of Utah issued a public health order limiting mass gatherings in Utah to 10 people,” the statement reads. “At that time, Salt Lake County’s existing health order from March 16 was less restrictive and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people. By state law, a locality cannot be less restrictive than the state. Therefore, today, in order to be in legal compliance with the state’s order, Salt Lake County simply mirrored the state order and did not add any additional limitations."
Similar to Salt Lake County’s order, Utah County’s order also limited public gatherings to 10 people or less. That order was issued on Wednesday, according to the county's website.
In a statement sent out Thursday evening, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said he will not prosecute gathering violations, although he did encourage residents to heed the order and limit groups.
“We call upon all people to act rationally and with the good faith and commonsense that has defined our state and her people since its beginning,” Herbert wrote on Twitter.
The Utah and Salt Lake County health departments did not immediately return requests for comment on Herbert’s repeal request.