Two-week mask mandate in Sanpete and other counties announced by Gov. Herbert

New public health regulations to fight COVID-19 issued for Sanpete County include a mask mandate and limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer, for now.

The new pandemic rules were announced by the governor’s office on Tuesday during a livestream broadcast.

State officials are doing away with the color-coded system for each region and putting a new plan into action in an effort to stem the tide of record-breaking case numbers.

“We are having one of the worst outbreaks in the country and this is unacceptable,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in the livestreamed news conference.

Counties will now be classified based on a combination of case rate, positivity rate and hospitalization, and each will be listed as high, moderate or low. Each week the state will announce changes to the risk category of each county based on the area’s conditions improving or worsening. Each risk category comes with its own set of rules and restrictions, Herbert said.

Sanpete County has been categorized as moderate risk, and will now be required to follow the rules and regulations for that level. Restrictions will be reduced if it goes down to low risk and increased if it goes to up to high risk.

Rich Saunders, acting director of the Utah Department of Health, spoke in the governor’s news conference as well, detailing the new changes and regulations. New mask regulations made up a big chunk of the discussion.

“There’s a focus on masks, and masks being required, based on the level of transmission in your area,” Saunders said.

In addition to the new risk category system, an immediate directive begins Thursday, Oct. 8 and lasts until Thursday, Oct. 29. This directive was described by Herbert as a “circuit-breaker” to stem the tide of surging case numbers.

The directive mandates that all counties listed as moderate or high risk by the state will now have a mask requirement in all indoor public spaces as well as outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not feasible. The same areas will also be required to limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer people for the same time frame.

After the directive ends on Oct. 29, unless Sanpete County has risen to the high risk category, masks will no longer be mandated, Saunders says. Likewise, once the two weeks have passed, Sanpete and other moderate areas will be allowed gatherings of 25 people, or even more if masks are worn.

Even after the directive ends on Oct. 29, all counties listed as high risk have mask mandates in all public indoor settings and outdoor settings where people cannot effectively social distance. High risk are also limited to 10 people or fewer for casual social gatherings. These sorts of gatherings amongst friends and loved ones have been found to be one of the most problematic concerning the spread of COVID, Saunders said.

Areas of low risk do not have mask mandates at all, but Saunders says masks are still strongly encouraged. Social gatherings in low risk areas are permitted for up to 50 people, or more if masks are worn.

Saunders also said county leadership may implement their own mask mandate at their discretion in consultation with the local health department.

There are also new rules and regulations for business, especially restaurants, bars, or any establishment that allows public gatherings, such as live events, theatres, sporting events and weddings.

For a full detailing of the Utah’s approach to tackling the pandemic, including the risk category for each county, how the risk level is determined and the new guidelines for businesses, see https://coronavirus.utah.gov. The website will be updated every Thursday to show the risk category for each county and the supporting data for those designations.