ST. GEORGE — In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of St. George is taking action to protect the public by limiting access to government offices and regulating large community events.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike is acting as a calm voice in a sea uncertainty.
“As a city, what we have decided is first and foremost our philosophy is going to follow the recommendations of the state,” Pike said. “We will be following their lead. They are the experts and prepared for just this type of thing.”
In an effort to reduce exposure for both the public and city staff, the city of St. George will follow a recent recommendation to restrict gatherings of more than 10 people.
City buildings will close starting Tuesday and remained closed until further notice, including St. George City Hall, unless an appointment is made, St. George City Commons Building, St. George Recreation Center, Sand Hollow Aquatic Center, the train at Thunder Junction and the St. George Art Museum.
“I want to emphasis there is no cause for panic,” Pike said. “Panic doesn’t get us anywhere.”
Pike added that during this emergency, the city strives to be thoughtful, kind and act in a responsible way, something he hopes citizens also embrace.
“We want to keep our people healthy and able to serve,” Pike said. “We want to limit in-person meetings to things that are essential.”
In addition to the closures, there will be no city council or planning commission meetings at least through the end of March.
Parks and golf courses will remain open, at least for now, Pike said. The city will make future decisions based on how widespread the outbreak is and what the state recommends.
“For now we will leave them open,” he said. “We will post signs that encourage people to keep group gathers low in number.”
Large gatherings will be canceled until the state gives the all-clear, Pike added.
“We are trying to take the most precautions that we feel is the most important,” he said. “We will play it a day at a time and let people live their lives.”
The lobby to the St. George Police Department is remaining open. The Washington County Library will also remain open for now.
Organizations that utilize city buildings that have gone on temporary hiatus include the St. George Children’s Museum and the St. George Musical Theater.
As far as the community shopping at grocery stores and the feeling the urge to hoard food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, pet food and a host of other items, Pike’s said people need to remember we are dealing with this as a community.
“Let’s do what we do in Washington County,” he said. “Let’s be thoughtful of other people. It will not do us any good to buy a pallet of toilet paper. This isn’t that kind of situation. Let’s make sure that everyone has enough.”
Anecdotally, Pike recalled a visit to the grocery store on Saturday afternoon only to face empty shelves.
“Some of it you can understand, but a lot made no sense,” he said. “Our water system is secure, there is no reason to be buying bottled water for most of us.”
Pike urged the community to be thoughtful when shopping and leave some for others who might be in an at-risk demographic.
“We are going to get through this together,” he said. “If you are concerned about your ability to fight off illness, this is where the Southern Utah Quarantine Support can help.”
The Facebook-based support group has more than 2,300 community members divided into geographic zones offering assistance.
“This is Utah’s Dixie,” Pike said. “It is the barn raising mentality, service mentality that focuses on the preventive measures to stay as healthy as possible, but more importantly how can we help our neighbors. This is what we need to do going forward.”
Health care experts say despite the federal government’s work to handle the pandemic, it is local efforts that will make the most impact.
“We are going to make sure we work together, that everyone has enough,” Pike said. “I think we have that kind of population here to make the mind shift, how can we help each other.”
Pike assured residents that the city is monitoring developments of the spread of the coronavirus closely, not wanting to overplay it or underplay the response.
“We want to strike the right balance,” Pike said. ” But, we will err on the side of caution. We will not take this lightly.”
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