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Utah announces mask mandate for K-12 schools


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SALT LAKE CITY ( — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday announced he will require students, teachers, staff, faculty and visitors at all K-12 schools in the state to wear masks for the fall semester.

He stopped short of requiring masks for all citizens statewide but said requiring masks at schools, even in rural areas, will help provide a safe environment for the state’s education system.

Herbert’s announcement comes a day after Utah saw its highest single-day total of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 722 cases and seven deaths.

The governor has repeatedly declined to mandate masks in public for all Utahns, preferring to let local health departments decide what is best for their area. Masks are already required in public in Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties, as well as the community of Springdale, just south of Zion National Park in Washington County.

Also Thursday, Utah’s number of COVID-19 cases increased by 01 from Wednesday, with four new reported deaths, according to the Utah Department of Health.

The new numbers indicate a 2.2% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 388,733 tests conducted in Utah so far, 7% were positive for COVID-19. The number of tests conducted increased by 2,973 as of Thursday, the health department reported.

The health department now estimates there are 11,491 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah. Another 15,661 cases are estimated recovered, because those people were diagnosed with COVID-19 three or more weeks ago and have not died.

There are currently 177 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, down from 199 on Wednesday, according to the health department. There are 74 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit, or ICU, beds at Utah hospitals as of Thursday, down two from Wednesday, according to health data. However, the percentage of ICU beds occupied in Utah is now just under 67%, up from 64% Wednesday.

About 55% of non-ICU beds are occupied at Utah hospitals as of Thursday, up from 53% Wednesday.

Thursday’s totals give 27,356 total confirmed cases, with 1,700 total hospitalizations 205 total deaths from the disease.

The total number of cases reported by the health department includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah’s outbreak began, including those who are infected now, those who have recovered from the disease and those who have died.

Two Salt Lake County residents were among the four deaths reported Thursday, according to the health department. One was a woman who was between the ages of 25 and 44. The other was a man between the ages of 45 and 64.

A Washington County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and a San Juan County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 were the two other deaths reported. In all four deaths, the patients were hospitalized when they died, the health department reported.

The new case average for the past seven days is 585 cases per day, and the positive test rate for that time period is 9.9%, according to the health department.

Herbert met with legislators and other stakeholders this week before announcing his decision on the mask mandate for schools. Utah Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson both said Wednesday they oppose a statewide mandate. The Utah Hospital Association, however, has come out in favor of such a measure.