SHORT CREEK — ‘Social distancing’ has become a defining phrase in these current times of addressing the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The national and state recommendations limiting social gatherings are rapidly changing the way people engage with one another – and the community that comprises the cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, is no exception.
While social distancing primarily refers to avoiding large groups of more than 10 people, some residents in smaller communities such as Short Creek are feeling the benefit of living at a greater distance from the larger municipalities in general.
Saria Dutson, Colorado City resident and supervisor at Brothers Bistro, told St. George News that living in Short Creek makes her feel protected from the virus, though she said she is still taking precautions both in her personal life and at work.
“It’s been really helpful to stay protected in this area because of our limited contact with the other big towns or big cities,” Dutson said. “I’m grateful for the protection, and it hasn’t really been that hard for me because we have our own grocery store and resources.”
Dutson, who’s getting married soon, said the main challenge with social distancing for her has been not being able to spend as much time with her fiancé since she is currently living at home with her parents, who have added more stringent restrictions as of late.
“My family has kind of made rules … that we can’t go outside. We can’t socialize,” she said. “A lot of people are taking precautions into that.”
While Brothers Bistro is shut down for dine-in, they are still operating a drive-up window in order to continue services for a community where most of their customers are regulars.
“We’re still open for business, because our citizens here are limited in their choices,” she said. “So we decided to keep our business running because most of the people can’t take trips down to go get food.”
While the distance from larger cities lends a feeling of safety, Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred told St. George News it also presents challenges, such as having to drive a greater distance to stores like Walmart, only to find the shelves bare.
“When you’re going down there, and you’re somewhat competing with people who live a few minutes from the store, it’s a lot more challenging,” Allred said.
Allred said he knows there are people who have been turning to their neighbors more for supplies.
“Sometimes when things aren’t on the shelf … people have to adapt,” he said. “They may not get exactly what they want, but there’s other things on other shelves that may not be a preference, but it’s sufficient.”
The city services are still running in Short Creek, but they are following the guidelines set forth by Arizona and Utah in order to take precautionary measures against the virus. While the utility office is still open, Allred said he encouraged residents to make payments online whenever possible.
The city is also making sure they have an adequate supply of treatment chemicals for the water system. Similar to Hildale, most meetings have been canceled, with others being done through video conferencing.
“We want to be cautious and take the appropriate precautions, but to panic is not really going to help anybody,” Allred said. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned, but I just say let’s all work together to stay safe.”
Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop told St. George News that finding alternative ways of socializing is vital at this time. She emphasized the importance of connection in a time when people are self-quarantining and said she believed Hildale residents were stepping up to the task.
“We’ve got each other – that’s one thing,” she said. “Utah has always taken care of each other, and here in this little valley, we’re drawing in closer, getting closer to our little families and taking care of one another. I’m feeling a lot of positivity from the people here.”
Jessop expressed her concern about the citizens feeling hopeless, especially in light of the earthquake that rattled Salt Lake City less than a week ago, but she reiterated the importance of staying hopeful.
“There’s anxiety because we don’t know how long this will be, but we’ve got each other,” she said. “Reach out to your neighbor or friend. We have phones, and we have social media – let’s use it for good.”
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