ST. GEORGE — Just as other counties and municipalities across the state and beyond have done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington County announced restrictions and cancellations on events and gatherings in an effort to stem the potential spread of the virus.
The restrictions went into effect Tuesday and will be re-evaluated April 6.
“We continue to monitor and work with our other partners as far as the outbreak we’re dealing with, trying to comply with all state and federal recommendations and continue to encourage our citizens to take all the precautions possible as we deal with this,” Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said during a County Commission meeting Tuesday.
As a part of limitations meant to promote social distancing, no public hearings will be held by the County Commission for the time being. And while the county offices will remain open and county commission meetings will continue, residents are encouraged to watch commission meetings online on the Community Education Channel.
Gatherings of over 50 people at the county offices have been canceled in observance of recommendations made by the federal government last week. However, President Donald Trump announced Monday that gathering should now be only people 10 people or less.
“Right now we have not decided to choose something different,” Iverson said when asked about reducing gatherings at county facilities from 50 to 10 per the president’s recommendation.
The county’s senior centers have been closed. The Meals-on-Wheels program for all three centers will continue to run; however, drivers will deliver meals at doorsteps and will not enter the residence.
Rather than serve meals at the senior centers, patrons may pick up frozen meals in the center parking lot during the usual meal times to take home and heat. Patrons should call in and preorder the meal for the next day.
Events to be held at the Dixie Convention Center have all been canceled by the county, Iverson said,
The county’s justice court will follow guidelines from the Utah Supreme Court. All nonessential hearings will be postponed with the exception of hearings listed on the Utah Supreme Court’s website.
The Legacy Park fairgrounds will follow the CDC guidelines with its indoor facilities and will not hold gatherings and events of 50 people and more. Outdoor events will be left up to the event organizers as to whether they will cancel, reschedule or modify their event. The same applies for the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park.
Branches of the Washington County Library will remain open with limited use. With public schools having been shutdown for the time being, county officials said they felt it was “important for adults and children to continue to have resources available.”
Libraries will remain open for patrons to check out books, but the public should not remain at the library after doing so. All programs and computer use at the library has been suspended and meetings in the library community areas have been canceled.
“We’re getting a lot of gratitude from patrons for leaving the libraries open,” Iverson said. “We also have a lot of folks coming in, getting passports and doing business with the county. So we’re going to continue monitoring the outbreak and doing everything we can to keep everybody safe.”
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced last week that on-site visitation at the Purgatory Correctional Facility has been suspended until further notice.
While the county is making efforts to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay, Commissioner Gil Almquist said he was worried some measures taken by the state and federal government may be going “a little too far.”
“There are a lot of people who have to go about their daily lives, and that means going to work,” Almquist said. “I want people to obey the president’s and governor’s rules, but I just don’t want to come across like we are panicking.”
While he said he takes the coronavirus pandemic seriously, Almquist said measures being implemented by the governor’s office that readily apply to counties in northern Utah aren’t necessarily needed in Southern Utah, at least not yet.
“Just because there’s a fire in the Unitas, it doesn’t mean I’m going to spray down my house down here,” Almquist said.
Commissioner Dean Cox participated in the commission meeting by phone from his cabin in Kolob. Cox recently returned home from cancer treatment and a bone marrow transplant in Salt Lake City. As the treatments left him with a compromised immune system, doctors have advised he keep himself away from possible infection.
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