With cases of corona virus in Utah “increasing at an alarming rate,” Republican Governor Gary Herbert issued a nationwide masking mandate and a state of emergency in Utah on Sunday.
The latest measures come a day after President Donald Trump – who has repeatedly downplayed the pandemic this year by saying the virus “affects virtually no one” – was defeated by Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Trump is said to have received 58.4 percent (759,583) of the vote in Utah, almost twice as many as Biden, according to Reuters data on Sunday with 37.7 percent (489,465).
On Monday, the total number of confirmed cases in Utah exceeded 132,600, with 659 deaths reported since the outbreak began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
Herbert said in a video message posted on Twitter: “The number of infections in our state is growing at an alarming rate … we are reporting record hospitalizations and new deaths every day. Our hospitals are full.
“Tonight [Sunday] I am addressing a new state of emergency to counteract the overcrowding and protect our intensive care capacity.
“Companies must require their employees to wear masks and promote the wearing of masks among visitors and visibly display appropriate signage. Those who do not do so will be fined by the labor commission,” said the governor.
In addition to the mask mandate, which is valid until further notice, Herbert banned residents from all casual social gatherings with people outside their homes for two weeks.
“The data shows us that we are most susceptible to infection at informal social gatherings…so, by order of my office and the Utah Department of Health, the Utahns are not allowed to participate in or host informal social gatherings with anyone other than those in their household for the next two weeks, the incubation period,” the governor noted.
Organizers of public events who fail to comply with the necessary precautionary guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks, will be fined up to $10,000 per incident, Herbert added.
Because of the alarming rate of COVID infections in our state, I have issued a new state of emergency tonight with several critical changes to our response. These changes will not bring our economy to a standstill, but are absolutely necessary to save lives and hospital capacity. #utpol pic.twitter.com/BuSNBsCbiz
– Governor Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) November 9, 2020
The seven-day moving average of daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Utah has risen sharply since early September after remaining unchanged during most of the outbreak, according to the latest figures from the Utah Department of Health.
The average number rose sharply through early November, peaking at 2,715 on November 7 after flattening out from mid-July to early September. From March to the end of May, the number flattened out before rising again by mid-July, according to the JHU.
The governor’s latest guidelines also follow months of trump in which the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of face coverings were downplayed during most of the pandemic, despite the fact that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.
As early as the end of February, Trump said: “We have done an incredible job. We will continue. One day [COVID-19] will disappear. It is like a miracle, it will disappear.”
During the presidential debate that took place in Ohio at the end of September, Trump said, “I don’t wear a mask like him [Biden], every time you see him, he has a mask. He could talk 200 feet away from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.
Just days after the debate, Trump confirmed that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for the virus.
As early as April, Trump said, “The CDC recommends the use of non-medical fabric face masks as an additional voluntary public health measure. So it’s voluntary, you don’t have to do it. They suggest it for a certain period of time, but this is voluntary. I do not think I will do it.
In a July 14 press release, CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said, “We are not defenseless against COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow the spread of the virus u