SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Department of Health officials said Wednesday they are working on an extension of the emergency public health order issued last week by Gov. Gary Herbert. The order limits social gatherings and mandates masks-wearing across the state, among other restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The information was shared during the Utah State Legislature's Interim Health and Human Services Committee meeting Wednesday that included presentations from state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn and health department executive director Rich Saunders.
Dunn opened the briefing by addressing the critical point that Utah's coronavirus case numbers have reached. She pointed to intensive care units equipped to deal with coronavirus patients at 98% capacity, with University Hospital's COVID-19 unit reaching over 100% capacity.
"This is really a time of great surge, great importance, and great urgency to drop the case count," Dunn said.
We're trying to say with a clear voice the safest Thanksgiving gathering is one with those you live with in your own home.
–Utah Department of Health Executive Director Rich Saunders.
Saunders outlined some guidelines for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. He recommended Utahns keep their gathering small and encouraged virtual participation; he also encouraged maintaining social distance in seating arrangments and wearing a mask when social distancing can't be observed, keeping track of those who attend the event for contact tracing, and limiting food preparation to one person, with one person serving the food.
"We're trying to say with a clear voice the safest Thanksgiving gathering is one with those you live with in your own home," Saunders said.
If enacted, the new public health order is expected to go into effect on Nov. 24, after the previous order has expired. Saunders said the new order would like likely include a limit to social gatherings, extend the mask mandate, and present no new restrictions on businesses; bars and restaurants would likely continue to stop serving alcohol past 10 p.m.