Gov. Gary Herbert moves West Valley City, Magna and Grand County to low-risk ‘yellow’ COVID-19 safety level

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

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The list of Utah locations considered to be at lower risk for spreading the coronavirus is growing — with state officials moving West Valley City, Magna and Grand County to the “yellow” safety designation.

Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order Friday, which means people in Grand County — home to the city of Moab and both Arches and Canyonlands national parks — and the two Salt Lake County cities will be able to follow the looser safety recommendations observed in most of the rest of the state.

The order, effective immediately, was issued just hours after the Utah Department of Health announced the state had 343 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the largest one-day spike in cases since the pandemic began.

The only municipalities still under the state’s stricter “orange,” or moderate risk, safety restrictions are the state’s capital and largest city, Salt Lake City, and two towns in San Juan County: Bluff and Mexican Hat.

Herbert approved the move to “yellow” for most of the state on May 16, and for Summit and Wasatch counties on May 23.

Under the low-risk “yellow” designation, social gatherings of 50 or fewer people are permitted. Club and team sports can be played, if participants are checked for symptoms beforehand. Dine-in service can resume at restaurants that encourage social distancing and have enacted hygiene measures. Pools can open, if social distancing is observed. A 6-foot buffer between household groups is urged at places of worship, entertainment venues and events.

“It’s all a matter of balance, of finding the right balance,” West Valley City Mayor Ron Bigelow said Friday. “Certainly, the city is very concerned about the health of its citizens. But many of the people of West Valley City have jobs they would like to return to.”

Bigelow said his city would be focusing on demographic groups — namely, the Latino and Pacific Islander population — who have been disproportionally affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

West Valley City residents, Bigelow said, “are comfortable with the approach we’ve taken to be careful.” Many have practiced social distancing and worn face masks in public, Bigelow said, and that they would likely continue to do so. “Whatever our category is, I don’t think it will change much,” he said.

The Grand County Council this week had requested the county be allowed to keep certain lodging restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. That request was quickly denied by Herbert’s office and the Utah Department of Health, Grand County officials said.

Arches and Canyonlands began a phased reopening Friday. Arches reopened at 6 a.m. Friday, but closed its gates again when the park hit capacity shortly after 9 a.m.

Under the “orange” guidelines, social gatherings of no more than 20 people are allowed. High-contact businesses — such as hair salons ad gyms — can operate under strict protocols. Restaurants are encouraged to stick to takeout and delivery. Social distancing is strongly encouraged during outdoor recreation.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement Friday that she has consulted with the Salt Lake County Health department, and requested the city remain under the “orange” designation “because our data is not showing a significant enough change since May 1 to warrant a change to ‘yellow.’”

Salt Lake City will continue to work with state and local health departments “to monitor the data and evaluate our status,” Mendenhall said.