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Gov. Herbert Introduces New Restrictions In Specific Areas To Combat Spike in COVID-19 Cases

  Last week Utah set new high records for COVID-19 cases. Tuesday,  Governor Gary Herbert announced new restrictions on certain areas in the state. 


The spike in cases is largely driven by Utah County and 15 to 24 year olds. But state officials say there is a significant case growth in most health districts and in all age groups in the past two weeks.   

Summit and Wasatch Counties haven’t seen a significant rise in cases in the past 14 days. And they haven’t seen any new deaths since numbers in the state started to spike. 

But State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn said the state has seen hospitalizations increase from 115 to 161 in just one week. 

“The spike that we're seeing is largely driven by 15 to 24 year olds who we know have a lower risk of being hospitalized,” Dunn said. “What we're starting to see is that spread into older populations that are at a higher risk of hospitalization. And that's why our hospitalization numbers are going up.”

She said right now hospitals are at 68% capacity.

Because of the spike in cases and hospitalizations, government officials increased the restriction level in Provo and Orem from the yellow, low-risk phase of the COVID-19 response to the orange, moderate-risk phase.

When Governor Gary Herbert was asked why he was only targeting Provo and Orem when other nearby cities had similar high rates of COVID-19 cases, he said health officials are trying to target specific areas with outbreaks. 

“We've been trying to be a little more of a scalpel approach here as opposed to a shotgun approach” Herbert said. “Intervention is needed to stop this fire outbreak of the virus in that location. And if we don't do it, the unfortunate outcome of that will be orange being the category for all of Utah County, and we don't want that to happen.”

But what kinds of changes will the increase in restrictions bring to Provo and Orem? 

The short answer is, not that many. Businesses will mostly be able to operate as normal and sporting events will still happen. But Herbert said there will be some new restrictions. 

“You're limited under orange as far as how many you can gather 20 or 50,” he said. “And in house dining will be impacted to some extent to buffets. So there is some impact, which is negative.”

Herbert said local officials in Utah County are considering a mask mandate. But it seems unlikely that he will implement a statewide mandate. 

“A statewide mandate doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because the one size fits all mentality works for a few but not for the many,” he said. “We have 13 or 14 counties that are green. Most of those are rural areas where social distancing is the norm. We don't have many cases in these locations. And so it would be overkill, I think to in fact mandate state wide mask wearing for those areas. It will do no good. And so we're trying to be selective.”

Wasatch County doesn’t have a mask mandate, but Summit County has a mask mandate in effect until January 8

Jessica joins KPCW as a general assignment reporter and Sunday Weekend Edition host. A Florida native, she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in English — concentrating in film studies — and journalism. Before moving to Utah, she spent time in Atlanta, GA.