SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert's office confirmed to FOX 13 it will likely move West Valley City, Magna and Grand County to a "yellow" -- or low risk -- status for COVID-19, effective Friday.
"There are three requests from local health departments under review by the Utah Department of Health to move the following jurisdictions from Moderate Risk (Orange) to Low Risk (Yellow): Grand County, Magna, and West Valley City. Based on the data and trends, we are inclined to accept those requests and an order could issue as early as tomorrow," the governor's office told FOX 13.
At a news conference earlier Thursday, the governor said Utah is improving when it comes to COVID-19, but his latest executive order largely preserves the existing restrictions that are in place.
"I think many parts of the state are getting to a point where they can start thinking about moving from 'yellow' to 'green,'" Gov. Herbert said, referring to the color-coded risk level implemented by the state. "That may not happen for a couple of weeks. Maybe longer."
For now, most of the state will remain in the "yellow" or low risk level. Salt Lake City, Bluff and Mexican Hat will remain at an "orange" or moderate risk. In a statement to FOX 13, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said cases remained high.
"After consulting with the County Health Department we've requested to keep Salt Lake City in the orange phase because our data is not showing a significant enough change since May 1 to warrant a shift to yellow," Mayor Mendenhall said. "We will continue to cooperate closely with the state and local health departments to monitor the data and evaluate our status."
Earlier this week, Mayor Mendenhall suggested the capital city might move to yellow.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson's office said she would not be making a change right away. The governor's latest executive order dictating a lot of the health guidelines will be in place through June 5.
But one community will transition to a lower risk level. The Grand County Council voted on Thursday to move to "yellow" with additional restrictions. Those include an emphasis on face masks (and allowing private businesses to refuse service to anyone not wearing one) as well as additional restrictions on lodging. One member of the council characterized it as more of a "peach" color.
The Moab area has been seeking to balance re-opening as a tourism destination while trying to guard against being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are set to re-open this weekend.
"I think these special restrictions are just really important in sending a message that we are on guard still," said Grand County Council member Gabriel Woytek during a special meeting on Thursday. "We have a community in Grand County that is really unique in that way we’re introducing risk by the nature of our economy, and that comes from visitation on a state and regional level. And I think we deserve respect on the state level to implement these safeguards."
One area still being devastated by COVID-19 remains the nearby Navajo Nation, which has the highest rate of cases in the country. Utah Division of Indian Affairs Director Dustin Jansen told reporters the state has sent testing teams down to the Four Corners area and personal protective equipment to help the Navajo health care system. Farmers have also sent resources for residents including sheep, flour and fresh produce.
While San Juan County remains in a "yellow" status (with the exceptions of Bluff and Mexican Hat), Gov. Herbert urged Utahns that live close to the sovereign Navajo Nation to follow tribal health directives.
"They’re trying to get a handle on this, we’re trying to give assistance," he said.
The governor also said more resources would be diverted to helping Utah's minority communities which are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Gov. Gary Herbert's latest executive order strongly urges Utahns to wear face masks in public, especially when social distancing is not possible. He praised those who have stepped up and followed health guidelines including keeping six feet apart, washing hands and sanitizing things.
"I appreciate the good work of the people of Utah, because our ability to open this up and get back to kind of a 'new normal' is really based on individual compliance and what we’re willing to do for our part to make sure we stay safe and keep those around us safe," he said.