Commissioner Bill Lee calls on Herbert to exempt Utah County from K-12 mask mandate 03

Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee addresses the crowd during a gathering held outside the Utah County Historic Courthouse in Provo just before a Utah County Commission meeting Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

A document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force named Utah as one of 18 coronavirus “red zones” in the United States and recommended more restrictive measures across the state.

The document, which hasn’t been released publicly, was obtained and reported on by the Center For Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization. It defines “red zone” as a state that had over a hundred new cases per 100,000 residents during the second week of July.

“Utah is in the red zone for cases,” the document said, which is dated Tuesday, “indicating more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week, and the yellow zone for test positivity, indicating a rate between 5% and 10% … Utah had 140 new cases per 100,000 population in the past week, compared to a national average of 119 per 100,000.”

Other “red zone” states include Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, California, Texas, Alabama and Florida, while 35 states, including Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, New York and Michigan, are classified as “yellow.” Only three states, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, are classified as “green zones.”

The document also highlights the three counties in Utah with the highest number of new cases last week: Salt Lake County, Utah County and Davis County.

“These counties represent 74.6 percent of new cases in Utah,” the document said.

Though the state as a whole is classified as “red,” some individual counties and metro areas are classified as “yellow,” including Utah County, Davis County, Weber County, the Provo-Orem area and the Ogden-Clearfield area.

Salt Lake, Washington, Tooele, Millard and San Juan Counties are all classified as “red” based on last week’s new cases, as well as the cities of Salt Lake City and St. George.

“The trend in recent days is very concerning in Utah,” said the report. “If actions are taken early, there can be a dramatic decline in cases.”

Among the recommendations included in the report are for Utah to “continue weekly testing of all workers in assisted living and long-term care facilities and require masks and social distancing for all visitors,” and to “move outdoor dining and limit indoor dining to less than 25%” and “decrease gathering limits to 10.”

Additionally, the report recommended that Utah close bars and gyms in “hot spot” counties, encourage individuals that have participated in large social gatherings to get tested and “increase messaging of the risk of serious disease in all age groups with preexisting medical conditions, including obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.”

The document gives “public messaging” recommendations for “red zone” counties, which include that members of the public should “wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance,” not go to bars, nightclubs or gyms, limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer and “reduce your public interactions and activities to 25% of your normal day.”

The recommendations for counties in the “yellow” zone, which includes Utah County, are for the public to limit social gatherings to 25 people or fewer, avoid bars and nightclubs, and reduce public interactions and activities to 50%.

Public officials in “red zone” counties are recommended to “ensure that all business retailers and personal services require masks and can safely social distance” and “work with community groups to provide targeted, tailored messaging to communities with high case rates, and increase community level testing.”

The Utah Department of Health reported a seven-day rolling average of 723 new cases per day in Utah as of Thursday.

Gov. Gary Herbert challenged Utahns on July 9 to voluntarily wear masks when unable to social distance in order to get Utah’s seven-day average below 500 new daily cases.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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