SALT LAKE CITY — Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Governor Gary Herbert is issuing recommendations for Utahns to safely celebrate as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our communities.
"From the governor’s perspective and the state of Utah’s perspective, we want you to have a happy Thanksgiving," he told reporters at his monthly news conference on PBS, adding: "But we want you to have a safe holiday season."
The recommendations were first reported by FOX 13 on Wednesday night. Utah's Department of Health said the safest way to gather and avoid spreading COVID-19 is to only be with those who already live in your household.
"Those who come to you from out of state bring more risk, those that come from out of town, out of household create more risk," he said.
But the governor said he would modify public health orders to allow for small gatherings during the holidays. He issued the following recommendations:
- Keep gatherings small, and keep them short. The longer it takes, the more risk of exposure to the virus.
- Anyone who is sick, has been exposed to COVID-19 or recently tested positive? Don't allow them to come over.
- Seating inside the home should be designed with physical distancing in mind (don't gather around the dinner table).
- Everyone should wear masks, even indoors if others are coming over.
- Eat outside, if possible.
- Ensure proper ventilation.
- Have only one person prepare and serve the food to avoid passing dishes around. Have that person wear a mask.
- Avoid "potluck" style gatherings.
"I know that’s a normal thing for Thanksgiving, but this is not a normal Thanksgiving time," Gov. Herbert said.
"...it's inconvenient and it's hard sometimes to be extra cautious, it's not the norm, but it's what we need to do in this troubled time and get into 2021."
Asked if he believed Utahns would follow the advice, Gov. Herbert said that despite criticism from some residents and certain law enforcement officials, he believes Utahns are following the orders, including the statewide mask mandate.
"More people are wearing masks, more people are taking this seriously, they're concerned, they're having social-distancing. Businesses are complying of their own volition, so yes, I think people will modify their own behavior," he said.
"Will everybody? Probably not. That may be just some of human nature, but I expect enough people will do this that we'll have a better time than if we just disregard these recommendations and good counsel from our medical health care advisers."
The governor said the orders are actually helping the state economy as more people are going out and spending money while practicing caution and feeling safer about it.
"Instead of having a negative effect on the economy, it probably has a positive effect on the economy to have a statewide mask mandate," he said.
Gov. Herbert announced he would be extending the statewide mask mandate beyond Nov. 23 (when it was set to expire).
While Herbert believes his orders have had a positive effect, daily COVID-19 cases in Utah are at their highest levels since the pandemic began, leading the governor at a loss as to what could possibly stem the tide of the coronavirus.
"We can look around the country and see that nobody seems to have an explanation for it," Herbert said. "We've tried a variety of different approaches, none of which seem to be working."
"On balance, we've done a pretty good job. Is it the right formula? I don't know, it's one formula and we're trying to do the best we can with the best medical advice we have available to us in the State of Utah."
He also was joining other governors from around the nation in a conference call with President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday afternoon to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I know that his concern is that we, in fact, come together to fight this coronavirus following the science and the medical advice we have," Gov. Herbert told reporters. "I hope he will still continue to let states conduct their own declarations and make their own recommendations to the public and our own mandates rather than a national mandate."
Despite the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 and recommendations that families remain apart from loved ones during the holidays, Herbert disagrees with those who find no reason to celebrate Thanksgiving.
"I hope that we understand that there's still a lot to be grateful for." said Herbert. "There's probably, all things considered, never been a better time to be alive and here in Utah and this country that there is today."
"I know we're looking for a new year and a new beginning, but let's be grateful for what we have today."