Masks required in public for Salt Lake, Summit counties, Herbert says; Utah’s COVID-19 cases jump by 590

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign calls for social distancing during the current yellow (low-risk) phase of Utah's COVID-19 effort, at Macy's in Sandy on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

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People in Salt Lake and Summit counties will be required to wear a face masks in businesses starting Saturday, after Gov. Gary Herbert signed off on the plan.

Summit County on Thursday afternoon asked for Herbert’s authorization to implement a mask mandate, similar to Salt Lake County’s request on Wednesday. Herbert’s office confirmed the decision but did not comment further.

“This is an important moment in an effort to keep our community safe,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson told The Tribune via phone Thursday evening. “A few days ago, it felt like we really didn’t have option. This is a health crisis, and while some folks might feel this is an overreach, it’s not.”

Wilson said the requirement to wear a mask will be when people enter and exit restaurants, go shopping or attend community events.

Herbert’s Thursday decision on face coverings came hours after the state announced another 590 new cases of the coronavirus — the second-largest single-day increase since the pandemic began.

And 34 more Utahns were reported to have been hospitalized — a daily increase reached only once before. Coronavirus patients filled 170 hospital beds as of Thursday — also a tie for the highest hospital occupancy yet.

Another Utahn has died from COVID-19, the Utah Department of Health reported on Thursday: a Salt Lake County man age 45 to 64, who was not hospitalized when he died. There have been 164 deaths in Utah due to the coronavirus.

Salt Lake County posted its second-biggest single-day increase on Thursday, with 303 new cases. The Weber-Morgan and Southwest Utah health departments and Davis County all posted their largest-yet increases Thursday.

With 590 new cases statewide, Utah is straying even further from health officials’ target 7-day average of less than 200 new cases per day by July 1 — a number they suggested needs to be met in order to avoid requiring a total state shutdown to control the spread of COVID-19 before flu season begins.

In order to reach that goal, the state would have to average fewer than 150 new cases for the next six days — a feat not achieved in about a month. Since May 28, more than 200 new cases have been reported each day, with Saturday bringing the largest single-day increase: 643 new cases.

Thursday’s increase came from 7,316 test results reported between Wednesday and Thursday, UDOH reported.

“This number is likely artificially high due to several days of negative results being reported today,” health officials wrote in a news statement. In total, 312,054 Utahns have been tested since the beginning of the pandemic.

A program to provide free COVID-19 testing to Salt Lake County’s west side will return in July, after a rush of people seeking tests overwhelmed the effort this week.

The Salt Lake County Health Department had scheduled free testing sessions in the Glendale and Rose Park neighborhoods this week, but had to cancel several events to restock supplies of test kits, said Nicholas Rupp, a department spokesman.

The testing events will be rescheduled shortly after the Fourth of July holiday, Rupp said. The department will work through community partners to make sure people in those neighborhoods get first crack at being tested. The department will work with groups at the grassroots level — through emails, texts, calls, fliers and private social-media groups — to inform people of the events.

The health department had expected between 100 and 150 people to show up for COVID-19 tests at each weekday event, and had allocated that many test kits. But at a testing event Monday in Glendale, 444 people showed up to be tested.

Only 24 percent of those 444 people were from zip codes from the county’s west side. The rest came from other parts of the state, and even as far away as Nevada and Wyoming.

Of 19,374 Utahns who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 1,290 have been hospitalized and 10,642 are considered “recovered” — that is, they have survived for three weeks after being diagnosed.

Tribune reporters Sean P. Means and Josh Newman contributed to this story.