Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Nov. 8 ordered people across the state to wear masks when going out as well as limits on casual social gatherings.
“The number of infections in our state is growing at an alarming rate. Our hospitals in Utah are among the best in the world, but they cannot give the best care when hospitals are at capacity, and medical professionals are exhausted and spread too thin. And that is what is happening now,” Herbert said in a video message.
According to Utah’s Department of Health, the number of new COVID-19 cases increased fivefold between Sept. 5 and Nov. 5, leading to a 400 percent rise in the number of patients in hospitals during the same time period.
Most of the recent cases are in Salt Lake County, which includes Salt Lake City.
More than 400 patients with COVID-19 were in hospitals as of Nov. 5.
Throughout the summer, intensive care units (ICUs) were about 70 percent full. Beginning in October, that percentage rose to 85 percent.
“Hospitals’ ICU units are functionally full when they reach 85 percent,” the department stated in a recent update.
Health care workers are exhausted and overwhelmed from battling COVID-19 since March, according to health officials, and because other nearby states are dealing with case spikes, they can’t send doctors and nurses to help.
It also imposes strict limits on social gatherings.
“You must keep casual social gatherings to household-only until Nov. 23, 2020. A social gathering refers to any in-person gathering of individuals from separate households. This does not include a gathering for a primarily educational or religious purpose,” the governor’s office stated.
Event organizers who don’t abide by the new rules are subject to fines of up to $10,000. All sports are being postponed for the next two weeks, with some exceptions. Bars must close by 10 p.m.
The mask requirements are “because scientists and medical experts overwhelmingly recommend masks as an effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Herbert said in his message, comparing wearing a mask to wearing a seat belt.
The requirements are in place “until further notice.”
Herbert said the rules aren’t a shutdown of society or the economy.
“Our health experts in fact agree that a full economic shutdown is not necessary nor warranted to slow the spread of COVID-19, but that the wearing of masks and exercise and every precaution when it comes to gathering with others, including social distancing, is crucial,” he said.
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, a Republican, said he supported the mandates, calling the spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations “clearly unsustainable.”