Understanding Governor Herbert's Statewide Mask Mandate and Social Gathering Limits

November 10, 2020

In conjunction with the Utah Department of Health, Governor Herbert issued concurrent executive and public health orders while declaring a new state of emergency.  The orders took effect Monday November 9th at 1pm, and extends to Monday November 23rd.

The Governor's office has been meeting with a number of national health figures over the past week including Dr. Robert Redfield from the CDC and Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus task force.  The Governor also met with state authorities including epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn and officials for local ICUs across the state.  

The latest orders are a compromise between national and local pressure for broader lockdowns like those seen earlier in the year and business leaders pleading to keep the economy open and running.

The key requirements of the new order are:

  • Individuals are required to wear a face mask in public settings when within six feet of any individual from a separate household.
  • Social gatherings should be limited to individuals within their household unless the event has a formal event host and; the event host requires each individual attending the to wear a face mask when within 6 feet of individuals not from their household.  
  • The order assigns additional legal requirements to the individual hosting the event as well as organizations or businesses used to facilitate the event.  Those requirements include posting signage that lists COVID-19 symptoms, asks individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to stay home, and provides notice of face mask and physical distancing requirements.
  • All employees of businesses are required to wear masks and businesses must post signage stating the same as those listed above.  The health order also adds potential fines for businesses who do not comply.

The full text of the health order can be found here.

The Department's Event Management Template can be found here.

Mask Exemptions

The health order provides exemptions for certain activities, like exercising outdoors while maintaining physical distance, among others.  Young children under 3 years old are also exempt.

The order does not apply to a religious service although faith-based organizations are strongly encouraged to implement protocols to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Why masks and social distancing?

While the Covid-19 molecule itself is very small and would pass through a typical face mask, it is not an airborne virus and cannot survive long without moisture.  The virus spreads primarily through aerosolized droplets emitted when speaking, coughing or sneezing.  These droplets are much larger and are significantly reduced by wearing a face mask.

ICU capacities in the State of Utah

When issuing the order, Governor Herbert also cited concern for the healthcare professionals in the state who are alarmed by surging ICU occupancy rates.  Major hospitals in the state have hired and repurposed additional staff to support the ICUs in the areas where cases have surged.  At times, some area ICUs have been filled to their capacity, while others have not.

For example, Salt Lake County ICUs sit at 52% of capacity as of this reporting, while Davis, Toole and Utah counties are at or near 100% capacity.

The Governor has encouraged everyone to take "personal responsibility" to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

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