Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during his monthly news conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Governor will remove household gathering restriction after contentious closed-door meetings with legislators
SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert’s decision to remove limits on social gatherings outside individual households from a new public health order he expects to issue days before Thanksgiving came after tense closed-door meetings with legislators this week.
Herbert announced on Thursday he’s not going to limit “what goes on inside the walls of your home” for the upcoming holiday season. While the mask mandate will be renewed, the new public health order replacing the one that expires Monday will not include limits on social gatherings between households, he said.
Herbert’s change comes after hours of closed-door caucus meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, in which some GOP House lawmakers complained about government mandates — particularly regarding restrictions over what Utahns are able to do in the privacy of their own homes.
“In recent consultations with members of the Legislature, we have come to the shared conclusion that seeking to regulate private conduct within the walls of a private residence is problematic, not easily enforced, and likely more subject to legal challenges,” Herbert’s office said in a prepared statement on Thursday.
“To that end, we are not renewing the order that individuals not gather with anyone outside their household.”
But the governor and his staff — while removing the restriction — also sought to convey the importance of following such a restriction.
Herbert asked Utahns to make the decision not to gather outside of their households for Thanksgiving, given Utah’s persistent COVID-19 surge that continues to dangerously overwhelm hospitals.
“This is not to say, however, that the risk of such gatherings has gone away,” his office said. “As we head into the holidays, we remind Utahns that the safest holiday gathering is only with those who live under your roof.”
Herbert has faced criticism from public health officials and Democrats for not doing enough to slow the spread of the virus and but also complaints from some GOP lawmakers frustrated over government mandates. His decision to back off the household social gatherings requirement, while also maintaining the mask mandate, shows he’s trying to find a sweet spot between the two.
Several GOP House lawmakers told the Deseret News, on condition of anonymity because the caucus meetings this week were closed, lawmakers in those meetings voiced frustrations with the executive branch’s restrictions, “unenforceable” government mandates and infringements on the Utah Constitution.
That was during an over four-hour closed GOP caucus meeting Tuesday night, after Herbert addressed lawmakers before health department staff, including state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn and Health Department Interim Executive Director Rich Saunders, presented lawmakers with a “barrage of information,” as one lawmaker put it, about the state’s response to COVID-19 and facts around the virus’ spread.
After Herbert left the meeting, Gov.-elect Spencer Cox took questions. When the conversation devolved into a politically …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News