Health department COVID-19 guidance changes could mean some restrictions lifted next week

Rendering of the COVID-19 form of the coronavirus. | Photo by berkozel, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Utah Department of Health released new COVID-19 guidance Friday that could bring some local areas closer to a return to normal – especially Garfield County, which may see the most public health restrictions lifted as soon as next Thursday.

Map shows the current level of each county in Utah according to the COVID-19 Transmission Index provided by the Utah Department of Health as of Feb. 11, 2021. | Photo courtesy Utah Department of Health, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The new guidance comes in the form of changes to the COVID-19 Transmission Index, which succeeded the previous red-orange-yellow-green color index that was used earlier in the pandemic to determine the level of health restrictions in Utah counties.

Under the changes, which would take effect next Thursday, areas in the “moderate” and “low” transmission rates can return to side-by-side seating at live and sporting events, movie theaters and restaurants. What will not change is the statewide mandate to wear masks and face coverings in public settings, which will continue regardless of whether a county is high, moderate or low.

Among the five Southern Utah counties, all remain in the “high” rate except for Garfield County, which is one of only four counties in the state in the “low” range.

The index became an afterthought after October when a long surge in new infections, hospitalizations and deaths left every county in the state at the highest level. However, as new infections and other effects of the virus have been on the decline in the last few weeks and more people are vaccinated against the virus, discussion has turned to how soon health restrictions on business and events can be lessened and areas of the state move closer to “normal.”

Graphic showing the restrictions under the revised Utah COVID-19 Transmission Index as of Feb. 18, 2021. | Background photo by Pixabay, graphic by Chris Reed, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Unlike the previous color system, the transmission index is based purely on the mathematics and data of the percentage of positive tests. Among local counties, all have seen a recent decline in positive tests with the exception of Beaver County. Washington and Iron counties don’t appear likely to be in the moderate range when the changes take effect next week.

Garfield has seen the largest decline in the last month and is likely to be in the low or moderate range come next Thursday.

Until now, counties in the moderate category still had distancing restrictions in place as far as live events and restaurants. Under the new guidance, distancing will just be required under some conditions in moderate areas and no restrictions at all will be in place in low areas.

For example, a movie theater in a moderate area could have side-by-side seating as long as all people in the theater are wearing masks and all patrons have not had a positive COVID-19 test in 14 days, though it’s unclear how that would be enforced. A gym, restaurant or theater in a low-transmission area would have no restrictions at all other than the wearing of masks.

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Feb. 12, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 25,807 (87.1 new infections per day in seven days, rising since Feb. 11)

  • Washington County: 19,542 (59 per day, falling)
  • Iron County: 4,787 (19 per day, falling)
  • Kane County: 460 (4.6 per day, rising)
  • Garfield County: 404 (0.6 per day, falling)
  • Beaver County: 614 (4 per day, falling)

New infections for major Southern Utah cities (numbers released ahead of Southern Utah numbers):

  • St. George: 26 (steady)
  • Washington City: 8 (rising)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 10 (falling)
  • Ivins City/Santa Clara: 5 (steady)
  • Cedar City: 14 (falling)

Deaths: 213 (0.6 per day, steady)

  • Washington County: 170
  • Iron County: 27 (1 new: Hospitalized male 65-84.)
  • Garfield County: 9 
  • Kane County: 3
  • Beaver County: 4

Hospitalized: 27 (falling)

Active cases: 2,125 (falling)

Current Utah seven-day average: 1,025 (falling)

Vaccines shipped to  Southern Utah: 41,150

Number of initial vaccine injections in Southern Utah: 27,673 

Number of fully vaccinated in Southern Utah: 9,359

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 70 and over; K-12 teachers and staff; those that work in nonhospital health care facilities (those in clinics, pharmacies, dentists or other medical offices); and first responders, including law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Those who can get first dose of the vaccine as of March 1: Everyone ages 65 and over as well as those with the following health conditions – Transplant recipients, having had certain cancers, immunocompromised state including HIV, severe kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes, obese with a body mass index greater than 40, hepatitis, chronic heart disease, but not high blood pressure, lung disease besides asthma, downs syndrome or cerebral palsy, those who have had strokes or dementia, sickle-cell anemia.
  • Must register in advance online for an appointment time.
  • Must have a personal ID, employment ID (if necessary) and wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment.
  • Proof of residency is required. Part-time residents can get vaccinated with proof of residency.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.
  • Those without email addresses or unable to make reservations online can get help at a specialized hotline at 435-986-2549.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S. 400 East, 2nd Floor Conference Room, St. George and Active Life Center, 245 N. 200 West, St George

Reservations: Click to register ALL FEBRUARY SLOTS FULL

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Drive, Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register ALL FEBRUARY SLOTS FULL

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab.

Reservations: Call (435) 644-4994.

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St. Panguitch.

Reservations: Click to register

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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