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Utah to allow reopening of restaurants, gyms, other sites

By Lindsay Whitehurst associated Press and Tim Vandenack special To The Daily Herald - | Apr 29, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will allow the reopening of dine-in restaurants, gyms, barber shops and nail salons at the end of the week, Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday.

People will also be allowed to gather in groups of up to 20 as of Friday, but strict social-distancing measures will stay in place, including the wearing of masks.

Herbert said there may be variations in some places, but several areas such as Washington County have already committed to a similar timeline. Officials in densely populated Salt Lake County also hope to allow some businesses to reopen in early May.

Restaurants have been closed to dine-in customers since March 17. Schools and church services will remain closed.

Herbert said steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus have been effective and given officials time to marshal their resources.

“Some people think we’re trying to get to a zero-risk situation. That’s not true …. Life has risk. We’re trying to manage the risk to tolerable levels that will let us go back and reopen the economy and yet protect people’s health,” the governor said.

Those at a higher risk of catching the virus were asked to use extra caution. The virus causes flu-like symptoms that many people recover from, but it can be fatal, especially for older people or those with other health conditions.

“It’s not going to be business as usual that we saw before COVID-19, but it’s going to be a step up from where we’re at now,” Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer said Wednesday, terming it a “soft opening.”

Businesses are eager for the change and are busy preparing for it. In anticipation, Gov. Gary Herbert’s Utah Leads Together 2.0 plan lays out operational guidelines for businesses to continue following social distance procedures.

Broadly, the updated guidelines, which go into considerable detail, still call for social distancing to guard against the coronavirus and use of masks and face coverings by workers in a wide range of instances. They also call for regular cleaning and sanitizing of facilities.

The guidelines for restaurants state that groups of diners must be seated 6 feet apart. They limit those at individual tables to six, preferably from the same household, while staffers are required to wear face coverings, among many other stipulations.

In gyms, patrons must maintain a distance of 10 feet from each other and they are encouraged to wear face coverings. Staff must clean equipment after each use.

In hair salons, both customers and service providers are to wear masks and work stations are to be at least 6 feet apart.

In other developments:

  • The state is working with local companies to offer 2 million free face masks, part of a program that is also expected to save 200 jobs. The masks can be requested at coronavirus.utah.gov/mask.
  • Four more people have died of the virus, bringing the total to 45. All were residents of Salt Lake County, and two were in nursing homes.
  • One retirement home, Highland Cove Assisted Living in Salt Lake City, has seen seven deaths from the virus, executive director Jeffery Mathews said. The facility had its first positive case on April 8, and since then 20 residents and nine staffers have tested positive. Thirteen are recovering at the facility. “Our community mourns this loss and want to express our deepest sympathy to the families impacted,” Matthews said.

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