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Gov. Herbert to declare new state of emergency for COVID-19

Posted at 11:24 AM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 20:36:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert issued a new state of emergency for COVID-19 in Utah, after legislative leaders refused to extend the existing one.

"People are still dying, the infection rates are still too high," Gov. Herbert told reporters at his monthly news conference on PBS Utah.

Utah's state of emergency for COVID-19 will expire at midnight Thursday, and the state legislature opted not to renew it Wednesday. It's been the subject of disagreement over the governor and the legislature's powers in an ongoing emergency with the pandemic.

"As a majority party, we were unified that we should not do that," Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told reporters on Thursday.

The governor warned that Utah would be the only state in the nation without an emergency declaration. The governor also believed it would risk hundreds of millions in federal funding for the state (some lawmakers disagreed with that).

Asked by FOX 13 if he planned to issue a new emergency declaration every 30 days until the pandemic was over, Gov. Herbert replied: "I don’t know what’s going to happen in 30 days. There are legitimate issues on what are the powers when you have a sustained, long-term emergency like a pandemic."

At his news conference, the governor also criticized those who would not wear masks voluntarily -- including parents who are pushing to have their children not wear them. He has mandated face coverings in schools to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

"This is just good medicine. It's good common sense and it shows respect for your neighbor," he said.

The governor says the emotion around masks is sometimes "a little bit irrational" and urged Utahns to voluntarily wear them to slow the spread of the virus.

The new executive order will be in place until September 4, 2020.

Read the full executive order here.