Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing free access to critical stories about the coronavirus. Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter, sent to your inbox every weekday morning. To support journalism like this, please donate or become a subscriber.
As Memorial Day weekend arrives with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing in Utah, two counties are moving back toward some normalcy.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert late Thursday afternoon issued an executive order, moving Summit and Wasatch counties to a low-risk health status of yellow. Herbert’s order was effective immediately, in time for the long holiday weekend.
On May 14, Herbert moved most of the state from an “orange” moderate-risk level down to “yellow.” Exceptions to that order, which went into effect Saturday, included Salt Lake City, West Valley and Grand County. All three remain at “orange.”
A move to “yellow” means that people in Summit and Wasatch counties can now gather in groups of 50, whereas “orange” only allows for groups of 20. Team sports can resume, as long as participants are checked for symptoms first, while restaurants, bars and buffets can open their dining areas, although with social distancing and hygiene restrictions in place.
Case numbers in both counties continue to rise, but at a much slower pace than earlier in the pandemic. Summit County is at 404 total cases as of Thursday, but the rise in cases there on a daily basis has been at 2% or less each day going back to April 20, when there was a 4% rise.
Summit was among the hardest-hit areas of the state early in the pandemic, which coincided with the tail end of ski season in Park City. Summit is also home to the Sundance Film Festival, which draws upward of 100,000 visitors to the area annually.
Wasatch County is in a similar situation. There are 222 cases as of Thursday, but there has only been one death dating back to April 25. Over the past week, there have not been more than nine new cases in any one day.
As of Thursday, the state of Utah is at 7,874 total cases, including 164 new cases and 92 total deaths. Salt Lake County’s 4,217 cases account for nearly 54% of all cases statewide.
While Salt Lake City remains at “orange,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall previously said she would like to see a consistent decline in cases over 14 days before loosening any restrictions.