SALT LAKE CITY — It's official: Kane County is the first to move to green, or "new normal," on the state's color-coded COVID-19 risk dial. But it comes as the state also made drastic changes to its guidelines for this new normal.
The change went into effect at 10 a.m. Friday through an executive order from the governor's office. In addition, Bluff and Mexican Hat in San Juan County moved to yellow, or low-risk, joining nearly the rest of the state. Salt Lake City is the only remaining area in Utah under the state's moderate-risk orange guidelines.
Gov. Gary Herbert announced that the southern Utah county would move to green during a press briefing Thursday. State health officials also announced some changes to its green guidelines during the briefing. Changes include adding recommendations that people practice social distancing and wear face coverings when it's impossible to do that.
Dr. Angela Dunn, the state's epidemiologist, explained that the changes put an emphasis on individuals in green phase areas to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19.
For example, the general overview for the green section went from language like "general public and employers take reasonable precautions, all businesses operating and schools open" to new language that states "general public follows current federal and local public health precautions and use of face coverings in business and social settings is encouraged when physical distancing is not feasible."
The document, which is dated June 2, also acknowledges that the "likelihood of COVID-19 spread is increased" in its green guidelines for the first time. Many of the guidelines center around standard actions like social distancing, wearing face coverings, using good hand hygiene and individuals are monitoring their symptoms.
"While wearing face coverings has proven to be somewhat effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, they will not completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 spread. Therefore, sound judgment, physical distancing and hygiene practices are important principles that must accompany appropriate use of face coverings," the document states.
The changes come as Utah has experienced an uptick of new cases in recent weeks. Since Utah health officials began releasing numbers in March, more than one-third of the state's cases have come after Memorial Day. State health officials have reported 200 or more cases every day since May 28.
In a press briefing last week, Dunn explained the uptick was something being seen statewide and couldn't be attributed to a rise in testing or one single event. She added that many cases have been related to being in close contact with someone at home or at work.
Guidelines for businesses have also changed in Version 4.6. Instead of saying "all businesses operating," the new green guidelines state "all businesses are open and operating under enhanced hygiene and cleaning regimen. Monitoring health of workforce and customers."
The green phase also now recommends that businesses follow the general business guidelines outlined later in the document, which includes daily screening for at-risk employees or those who work with at-risk employees, using electronic communication for meetings instead of in-person meetings, and creating or maintaining "non-punitive leave policies so employees do not feel pressured to come to work if they are sick."