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St. George mayor eyes COVID ‘code yellow’ designation for 3 county area

FILE PHOTO: The city of St. George is pictured in May 2020. Washington County Search and Rescue Teams report five incidents in one day, resulting in one death. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

ST. GEORGE, Utah — St. George Mayor Jon Pike is suggesting a move from code ‘orange’ to code ‘yellow’ as soon as Friday night.  The mayor, during a city council meeting Thursday night, says if any changes came down late this week, they would only involve three of the five counties that make up the southwest region of the state.  He says Washington, Iron and Kane counties would be included in the change.  Beaver and Garfield counties would not be expected to follow suit due to differences in climate.

“Even though they’ve had few or no cases, those counties, both Garfield and Beaver counties, there are different elevations, so I think they’ve both been wanting to hold off a bit,” says Mayor Pike during a virtual council meeting on Thursday night.

The suggestion is just that.  In fact, previous attempts to downgrade to code yellow have been rejected, as recently as this week a request was denied to move to a yellow, or low-risk coronavirus designation, one week after the state moved from high-risk red alert to orange.

Major General Jeff Burton of the Utah Department of Health spoke at Thursday’s council meeting, telling members and the mayor that a decision whether to allow the southern counties a code yellow designation would be made Friday morning.

“We are pouring over the data, and it looks like you qualify, but that’s a decision the governor will make,” Burton told the council. “You look pretty solid in Washington County.”

A downgrade to yellow would be big news in that it would allow schools and businesses to fully reopen, with gatherings of up to 50 people allowed.  Safe social distancing is still encouraged under the yellow alert.

The mayor says he spoke to Governor Herbert on Thursday, hoping he would get approval in order to move to code yellow by Friday night.  He says its not a done deal, but he is encouraged.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 132 total cases of coronavirus in southwest Utah.  Since May 1st, there have been 31 new cases, with three deaths reported in the area, one of them coming this week.   7,376 tests have been reported in the region.