Utah governor issues statewide mask mandate amid virus surge

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency and ordered a statewide mask mandate in an attempt to stem a surge in coronavirus patient hospitalizations that is testing the state’s hospital capacity.

Herbert and the Utah Department of Health late Sunday issued executive and public health orders requiring residents to wear face coverings in public, at work and when they are within 6 feet of people who don’t live in their households.

Several of the state’s largest counties already required masks, but Herbert, a Republican, had resisted extending the rule to the entire state despite a two-month surge of cases.

Herbert said Sunday night that the time to debate masks had passed and insisted his orders won’t shut down the economy.

The new Utah rules also call for a two-week pause on extracurricular activities including athletic events, with the exception of high school championship games and Intercollegiate athletic events as long as testing and social distancing guidelines are adhered to. Herbert ordered a limit on “casual social gatherings” to household members only.

The orders go into effect at 1 p.m. local time (MST) on Monday and are set to last until Nov. 23.

By Jan. 1, all Utah students at public and private universities who attend at least one class per week in person must be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

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