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Altered Utah events aim to ring in the new year safely amid pandemic

Altered Utah events aim to ring in the new year safely amid pandemic

(The Gateway)

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SALT LAKE CITY — While health officials continue to urge caution as Utah fights the coronavirus pandemic, many communities are forging ahead with New Year's Eve celebrations designed to safely ring in what everyone hopes is a much better year than 2020.

There are still opportunities to catch fireworks and events on Thursday night. But as Intermountain physician Dr. Edward Stenehjem said in a Wednesday Q&A, Utahns should take the same precautions recommended before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"This holiday season, our recommendation is to only gather with people in your home," Stenehjem said. "Don't invite others in that potentially could have the virus, either symptomatically or asymptomatically, that could potentially transmit the virus. This is what we recommended at Thanksgiving as well, consistent with (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations. Our community transmission rate is just so high."

The rolling seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests in Utah is 25%. "There's just a lot of COVID-19 still in our communities," Stenehjem said.

The state has assembled its own tips for safe holiday celebrations on its coronavirus webpage.

"The more people from different households a person interacts with at a gathering, the closer the physical interaction is, and the longer the interaction lasts, the higher the risk that a person who has COVID-19 may spread it to others, whether he or she has symptoms or not," the state says.

It recommends that gatherings be kept as small as possible and that participants wear masks indoors, physically distance, practice good hygiene, and not attend events if they are sick with or have been exposed to COVID-19.

Modified events

The Gateway's annual "Last Hurrah!" celebration is only a few years old but had already turned into the biggest New Year's party in the state. This year the live entertainment and fireworks will be back, but organizers are encouraging people to tune in online rather than show up in person.

There will be people live at the event, as The Gateway sold limited number of tickets for families to enjoy the show outdoors in the main plaza area. Parties will be physically distanced, masked up and assigned a spot; however, tickets to the event are sold out. Interested Utahns can still join a waitlist in case a registered party is unable to attend.

For everyone else, The Gateway encourages Utahns to livestream the action from home. "People can log onto or and they'll be able to see the performances by the band, the countdown and the fireworks," said Gateway marketing manager Jacklyn Briggs. "There will be live shots from The Gateway so that people can kind of have a local experience from the comfort and safety of their house."

The entertainment will start at 11 p.m. with music from local act The Cool featuring Bri Ray.

Some Gateway dining options will be open late as well, including HallPass and Dave & Buster's, as well as grocer The Store. "Anyone who comes down is welcome to go into open merchants," Briggs said. "Just as a reminder, though, those will hit capacity because they have a certain amount of space that once it's filled, they will not allow more people in. So that is first come, first served."

The plaza area will be roped off for ticket holders only.

That is the gift you can give us. Wear a mask, do your social distancing, minimize your contacts so you're not contributing to the ongoing transmission of this virus.

–Dr. Edward Stenehjem, Intermountain physician

Elsewhere in Utah, Provo is holding a drive-in fireworks celebration with shows at 9 p.m. and midnight. The Living Planet Aquarium is hosting a "Noon Year's Eve" event, there's a holiday laser show continuing at the Maverik Center, and the popular Luminaria lights show at Thanksgiving Point is having a sold-out New Year's event with fireworks.

Of course, there will be parties and gatherings and crowded bars. But there are safer options this New Year's Eve and, as Stenehjem said during the Intermountain presentation, the best way to thank Utah's health care workers this holiday season "is to not get COVID and not transmit COVID to anybody else."

"That is the gift you can give us," he said. "Wear a mask, do your social distancing, minimize your contacts so you're not contributing to the ongoing transmission of this virus."


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Graham Dudley reports on politics, breaking news and more for A native Texan, Graham's work has previously appeared in the Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin and The Oklahoma Daily.


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