Washington County declares state of emergency due to COVID-19

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Commission declared a state of emergency Friday regarding the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the county.

Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson speaks to St. George News about the county’s state of emergency declaration, St. George, Utah, March 20, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“What we did today is took care of declaring a countywide state of emergency in regards to our economic conditions and some of the resulting impact the county will be facing,” Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said Friday.

A purpose of the declaration is to help stabilize local businesses and allow the County Commission to make decisions for the county “on the fly” as conditions change, Iverson said.

Overall, Iverson said there are three points the emergency declaration focuses on related to supporting local business and providing accurate information to the public on services and businesses still open and available, especially for the county’s senior population.

First, the county will be directing funds used for tourism advertising toward a campaign called “Staying Greater” that highlights businesses that are open and how people can support local business. The second part of that plan includes working with the communities, the private sector and possibly the state to supply emergency business loans to local businesses.

“As we look to help these businesses that are impacted immediately, our hope is that they’ll be able to stabilize and we’ll get back to regular conditions,” Iverson said.

A sign in the window of Honolulu Grill in St. George urging people to super local businesses by ordering take out at least three times a week during the coronavirus shut down of restaurant dine-in operations, St. George, Utah, March 21, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessoler, St. George News

The third part of the declaration is to supply accurate information in a place the county’s senior population can go in order to learn which pharmacies make deliveries, which grocery stores have made accommodations for them or how they can reach out to the community so they don’t feel isolated during the pandemic.

“All of those things I’ve just described I’m hoping to be able to go online at the first part of next week,” Iverson said. “Those are the three actions we’re taking right now, along with other actions that may be necessary.”

The spread of COVID-19 across the globe and parts of the state has prompted a sharp decrease in travel as borders are closed and people are asked to stay home in order to stem the spread of the virus. This has had a tremendous impact on the area’s hoteliers and service-related industries, Iverson said.

Across the state, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered for restaurants and bars to close down dining-in operations as the virus hit parts of northern Utah. County and municipal government have also taken measures to slow the virus by canceling public meetings and events while also limiting general access to public buildings.

A review of the restrictions enacted by the Washington County Commission can be found here.

Bikers at the start line for the 2019 Ironman 70.3 race in Southern Utah, May 4, 2019 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

One of the largest events in the county which usually takes place in early May, the Ironman triathlon, has been postponed to September due to the virus.

As of Saturday, the state of Utah reported 136 cases of COVID-19 in Utah, with 11 of those cases being visitors. Though one case has been reported in southwest Utah, it originates from a former passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive for the virus.

Despite the economic repercussions the pandemic is creating across the board, Iverson encourages county residents to be calm and kind to each other and not to give into a “pandemic of fear.”

“There’s no doubt there’s a side effect of the pandemic we’re dealing with, and that’s a pandemic of fear. Everybody’s aware there’s a lot of uncertainty.” Iverson said. “We’re in this together, we’re going to going to make it through, because that is the type of community and county we really are.”

Editor’s Note: After this article was posted, the first positive test of the COVID-19 virus was announced in Washington County. For more, go here.

COVID-19 information resources

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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