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Utah's governor deliberates whether to lower COVID-19 risk level again

Governor COVID-19 mask
Posted at 3:05 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 20:24:15-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert is deliberating whether to move Utah to its lowest risk level for COVID-19.

His directive and public health orders are set to expire on Friday. FOX 13 is told the governor has been evaluating things with an announcement possibly late Thursday or early Friday. The governor's office anticipated a news conference on Thursday morning, but it was canceled.

FOX 13 first reported earlier this week a legislative commission dedicated to re-opening the state had voted unanimously to move to a "green" or "new normal" risk level, removing a lot of the health directives in place. However, Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told FOX 13 that health directives would be modified to preserve social distancing, sanitization and strongly encouraging the use of face masks in public.

One of those on the commission is Major General Jefferson Burton, the acting director of Utah's Department of Health. At a news conference Wednesday, Dr. Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist, told reporters she was not recommending Utah go to a "green" risk level for COVID-19.

The state has seen a trend of increasing coronavirus cases in recent days. The legislature's commission counters that hospital capacity has not been exceeded, which could justify the move.

Currently, Utah is in a "yellow" or low risk level for COVID-19. Salt Lake City, Bluff and Mexican Hat remain at an "orange" or moderate risk level because of higher numbers of cases. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson have previously expressed concerns about lowering the COVID-19 risk level and the restrictions that come with it.

The Senate President on Thursday disclosed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, though he said he did not know when he would have contracted the virus.

"I'm unaware of having COVID-19, as symptoms were not recognizable. As a result, I did not receive a COVID-19 test. I experienced some tiredness post-session, which I assume was what I refer to as session lag. I'm grateful I've been diligent at social distancing and wearing a face mask because I do not know if or when I had COVID-19," Sen. Adams said in a statement. "Currently, I’m in the process of determining if I am eligible to donate plasma in an effort to help others fighting this virus. I encourage other Utahns who have recovered from COVID-19 or have antibodies consult with their physician to see if they may also be eligible to be a plasma donor."

Sen. Adams said he encouraged people to continue to follow existing social distancing rules as well as wearing face masks in public to prevent virus spread.