New Utah State of Emergency Impacts U Campus


Jibon ASM Asib

Students at the University of Utah are following the COVID-19 guidelines by wearing masks while working on campus (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Natalie Colby and Kayleigh Silverstein


As COVID-19 cases surge in Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency in Utah at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 8. He announced a statewide mask mandate until further notice and limited social gatherings for the next two weeks. 

On Nov. 8, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted her gratitude for the statewide order, saying “It is overdue.”

Other orders in the mandate included no youth or high school sports, and no extracurricular activities. 

According to a public health order from Gov. Herbert and the Utah Department of Health, “Beginning as soon as possible, but no later than January 1, 2021, students enrolled at public and private institutions of higher education, who either live on campus or attend at least one in-person class per week will be required to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.”

In an email statement to The Chronicle, Chris Nelson, the University of Utah’s communications director, said that more details about the U’s testing plan will be announced in the next few days. 

The mask mandate will be enforced for the foreseeable future. However, other restrictions, such as gatherings only within households, will last for the next two weeks.

The executive order also mandated a $10,000 fine for gatherings that do not follow the required precautions. 

“We need our doctors and our nurses and now they need us. They’re pleading for help. The stakes are high, lives are at risk as COVID-19 cases surge and we report record hospitalizations and new deaths, day after day, our hospitals are full,” Herbert said during the briefing. 

In addition to COVID-19 precautions, Gov. Herbert encouraged Utah residents to get a flu shot to decrease hospitalizations and keep beds needed for COVID-19 patients open. 

“I know it is easy to become discouraged. We’ve lost 659 Utahns to this cruel virus. Too many have lost jobs and worried about how to pay for food and housing, too many feel isolated and alone. Civil actions can make a critical difference,” Gov. Herbert said. 

Along with updated COVID-19 standards, Housing and Residential Education’s Assistant Director of Communications, Lexie Maschoff, said that the majority of COVID-19 policies instituted at the beginning of the semester will be maintained. This includes social distancing and masks, which are required in all community spaces, and restricting guests from visiting individual rooms or apartments. 

Maschoff said HRE has been monitoring the numbers and positive cases of on-campus residents. She said they currently have plenty of resources to maintain student safety, including isolation rooms. 

While specific policies may not be changing, Maschoff said they are encouraging residents to limit unnecessary contact with anyone they do not live with.

HRE will be sending out email updates to residents in the upcoming days.

Nelson said that next semester will look similar to the format of the fall semester, with 21% of classes being in person, 41% being interactive video classes, 21% being online only, 8% being hybrid and 8% being a combination of IVC and hybrid. 

“I’ve not heard a final decision about course modality but I suspect campus will look very similar to fall semester,” Nelson said.

He said it is important for members of the campus community to create and maintain social bubbles as winter approaches. 

“I think overall our students have done a remarkable job following fall semester guidelines and working to keep slowing the spread of positive cases among our campus community,” Nelson said. 

According to Nelson, the U already has prohibited non-classroom gatherings or events on campus with more than ten people. 

“And in groups of less than 10, masks must be worn and physical distancing must be practiced,” he said. “I don’t see that changing for spring semester unless there is a dramatic drop in the city and state transmission rates.”

Nelson said that the in-person classes at the U are only in person because they either have a lab or a performance component. 

“It’s critical that everyone on campus continue being diligent as we finish in-person classes and move all online after the Thanksgiving break,” Nelson said.


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