As COVID-19 Surges in Utah, Summit County Explores Mandatory Masks and a Return to Orange Risk Level

Jun 23, 2020


Credit Deseret News, Press Pool

Utah has seen a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases since the state began reopening. The increase in cases has state and local officials looking at possible changes to health and safety guidelines to help stem the spread of the virus.

In a June 19 memo to state and local health officials, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn warned that if current daily infection rates continue across the state, conventional ICU capacity at many hospitals will be overwhelmed by early July. 

Dunn urged Governor Gary Herbert to move all of Utah back into the orange moderate-risk zone if a seven day rolling average of 200 new cases per day isn’t achieved by July 1. Utah has averaged about 470 new cases per day this past week. Dunn added that Utah is nearing a point where a complete shutdown of the state will be the only realistic option to control the spread of the disease.


Summit County Councilman Glenn Wright told KPCW that if Governor Herbert does not enact a statewide move to the orange risk level, Summit County could explore applying for an exemption from the state to move the county to orange themselves.


“That’s clearly not what the governor and a lot of the economic interests in the state want to do, but it may become inevitable if the numbers don’t start slacking off," Wright said. "We’re now in a pretty frightening increase rate in the state.”


Wright added that a statewide mandate on mask wearing is also a step he’d like the Governor to take. If not, Summit County could also move to make them mandatory if needed.


“I would love to see the Governor make a mandatory mask usage policy," he added. "If not, several states have made a local option. I suspect Summit County would jump on that if the Governor made that available to us.”


Governor Herbert Tweeted on Monday that he appreciates Dr. Dunn’s analysis but has no plans to shut down Utah’s economy. Wright worried that if Governor Herbert takes too long to act, Utah could be headed in a grim direction.


“If the Governor puts off a decision of that nature too long and the hospital system gets overwhelmed, we could see in Utah the kind of disaster that occurred in New York a month or two ago," said Wright. "I don’t think we want to see bodies stored in refrigerated containers and mass graves being dug in our cemeteries.”


The next Summit County Council meeting where any decisions can be made regarding local health and safety regulations is scheduled for Monday, June 29. Dr. Dunn’s complete memo can be found here.