Utah's largest counties now in 'moderate' COVID-19 transmission level

Utah's largest counties now in 'moderate' COVID-19 transmission level

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah County is now in the "moderate" transmission level for COVID-19, Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday during his weekly coronavirus news conference, and can relax some restrictions in restaurants and entertainment venues.

There are now 18 total Utah counties in the moderate transmission level, including Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Washington. The rating is based on the state's COVID-19 Transmission Index, which was developed last year to tailor coronavirus rules and restrictions to each county's needs based on how the coronavirus is spreading — instead of issuing blanket, statewide directives.

Utah, Tooele, Iron and Sevier counties were all downgraded to moderate transmission from the "high" transmission level this week. "It's a really big deal for Utah County to now be moving to moderate," Cox said, as the county has been under high transmission rules since the Transmission Index was created.

Distancing rules mostly gone, but masks a must

What changes when counties move from high to moderate transmission? "It does not mean that the pandemic is over," Cox emphasized. "It means the disease is not spreading as much as it was before, so there can be fewer restrictions."

The change means businesses can operate at full capacity, but the entire state is still under a mask mandate until April 10. Cox explained that for restaurants and bars, moving to moderate transmission means that parties can now be seated closer than 6 feet apart.

But masks are still required unless patrons are "actively eating or drinking," and parties still must distance themselves in waiting areas before being seated.

"You will see tables that are closer together than you have in those areas that are in high transmission," Cox said.

All entertainment, recreational and event venues can also fill up and seat patrons shoulder-to-shoulder under moderate rules. "However, masks remain a requirement in these settings where physically distancing is not possible," Cox said.

Concession stands can open again, but patrons can't remove their masks to eat or drink if they are not 6 feet away from other parties. Rather, the concessions will have to be consumed in a common area or other space away from others, Cox said.

The state still recommends —but does not require — that Utahns in moderate transmission counties limit social gatherings to 25 people or fewer. It continues to recommend that Utahns wear masks and physically distance themselves from people who are not members of their own household.

"This is what we have expected to happen — an orderly lessening of restrictions as the transmission falls," Cox said. But he warned Utahns not to be complacent as the pandemic approaches its end.

"If we're not careful — and we're seeing a plateau this week — the virus can spread quickly again. We certainly don't want another surge, so still take necessary precautions."

The counties currently in the moderate transmission level are:

  • Box Elder
  • Cache
  • Davis
  • Duchesne
  • Grand
  • Iron
  • Juab
  • Millard
  • Morgan
  • Salt Lake
  • San Juan
  • Sanpete
  • Sevier
  • Tooele
  • Utah
  • Wasatch
  • Washington
  • Weber

Beaver, Carbon, Emery, Garfield, Kane, Summit and Uintah counties are still at the more-restrictive high transmission level. Daggett, Piute, Rich and Wayne counties are in the "low" transmission level with the fewest rules.

More information about requirements and recommendations under various transmission levels is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels.

'Act with respect'

Cox ended his remarks Thursday with an impassioned plea for Utahns to be patient with one another during the final months of the pandemic.

"I know it's been a really difficult year," Cox said, "and I know that these issues around the pandemic can, and have, been divisive. But please, act with respect to your fellow human beings. If you go into a business and they are requiring you to wear masks, wear masks. Don't yell at the clerk. Don't yell at the store manager. Don't make a fool of yourself because you don't want to wear a mask."

The state will not require masks after April 10, Cox said, but individual businesses "absolutely have a right to require masks."

"And if you don't like it, go shop somewhere else," he said. "You don't need to be a jerk to people that you come in contact with."

Conversely, Cox said Utahns shouldn't make a scene if a restaurant "table is closer to yours" than desired, for instance. "If you don't feel comfortable going out and eating in a restaurant ... then get takeout," he said. "We have to treat each other with respect. This is not a free-for-all. We live in a society. We should care about each other."

Cox acknowledged that people on all sides have "made mistakes" during the pandemic and "been critical of others when it turns out our side was wrong."

"We're so close to the end," Cox said, "we're getting vaccines out as much as possible — please be kind to each other."

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


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