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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will stay at the yellow, low-risk level for COVID-19, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday.
The state’s previous health order setting the state at the yellow level was set to expire Friday. The current health order will remain in effect until Friday, June 12.
Salt Lake City, Bluff and Mexican Hat remain at moderate, or orange risk level.
Business leaders had previously said Utah could see a move to the green, safe normal level. But Herbert’s announcement comes as health officials are investigating a statewide spike of new COVID-19 cases over the past week.
Utah state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said earlier in the week that it’s possible the recent rise is a start to the "acceleration phase," which would mean a continual climb in cases over the next few weeks.
"It’s not as if the simple act of loosening restrictions that causes cases to increase; it’s what we do in society and our actions that can cause COVID-19 to spread more readily," Dunn said. "Loosening restrictions does not mean the risk of spread is decreasing."
As of Friday, Utah has seen 11,252 total COVID-19 cases, with 120 reported deaths due to the virus. Of the 232,197 tests conducted in Utah so far, 4.8% were positive for COVID-19.
Herbert's statement reads:
“Common sense requires keeping our current health risk guidance in place. We all want to return to more normal patterns of life as soon as possible, but we also do not want to take a step back in our progress against this disease and our reactivation of the economy. A marked increase in disease incidence and in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 give us pause. We will continue to analyze data trends with an eye toward balancing overall health risks and protecting high risk populations.
“Utah’s Yellow phase guidance emphasizes taking common sense precautions so that we can safely resume regular social and economic pursuits. Under Yellow risk status, there are no economic activities that are categorically prohibited if common sense precautions are in place.
“We have shown that we can make progress to slow the spread of coronavirus even while reactivating our economy. Please practice social distancing and good hygiene. And I strongly urge Utahns to use face coverings. I know that wearing masks looks and feels different, but it is an easy, low-cost practice that will help us return to normal. I believe that wearing masks has helped to reduce the asymptomatic spread of the virus among state officials even as we have been working long hours together in close quarters.”