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Utah drops restrictions on gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving

Utah dropped its coronavirus restrictions on resident gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving this week, though officials still recommend against them.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) announced Monday that the state was removing the two-week-old mandate against casual social gatherings of those from different households, instead making it a recommendation. The restrictions on gatherings were set to expire Monday.

But state officials encouraged Utah residents to keep their holiday gatherings small to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. 

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“You increase the risk when you bring people into your home that are from outside the four walls of your house,” Herbert said during the briefing. “That’s just the harsh reality.”

State officials will extend the statewide mask order, requiring face coverings in indoor public places and outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible, the governor said. 

The loosening of restrictions comes as 2,244 COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Monday and as the seven-day average for new cases per day has reached 3,349 cases and “continues to increase,” state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said at the briefing. 

The state has confirmed a total of 179,420 cases and 797 deaths related to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 136 of those deaths have occurred in the past two weeks, which has been the deadliest 14-day period for coronavirus in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune reported

State officials reported that 23.6 percent of tests have returned positive results — much higher than what public health officials recommend. As of Monday, 545 people are hospitalized due to the virus — 11 fewer than Sunday, but Herbert said the state is “kind of at the full occupancy rate when it comes to ICU beds.”

Last week, Herbert announced his plans to remove restrictions on gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving after a closed-door meeting with legislators, Deseret News reported