ST. GEORGE — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a recommendation Friday afternoon that every person in the state stay home as much as possible and avoid public gatherings of any kind as efforts continue to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive falls short of a mandatory, statewide shelter-in-place order like that which has been enacted in places like California and New York, but Herbert said the message of the directive is that at this point, everyone in Utah should stay home unless they have essential needs to leave it.
“All individuals should stay home as much as possible,” Herbert said. “We should be looking at what we can do to stay home, rather than being out. This is something we expect all Utahns to do. It will only work if we all do this. All of us are in this together.”
The directive is effective immediately through April 13, when Herbert said it will be reviewed to see if it will need to be extended further.
The first death in Southern Utah from COVID-19 was announced earlier Friday.
On the surface, the directive does not seem much different than the social distancing and self-isolation measures many people in Southern Utah and the rest of the state have undertaken since Herbert issued his first recommendation to restrict public gatherings on March 12.
However, this recommendation puts a foot down on all gatherings and also places mandatory restrictions on who can visit state parks. The governor also recommends that people should limit physical interactions with anyone ages 60 or over, or those with an underlying medical condition.
“Some of these are the same things we have been doing. This is reinforcement,” Herbert said. “This is an opportunity for us to recommit. This is the governor of Utah asking everyone to comply. ”
Herbert said he avoided a shelter-in-place order because of a negative connotation. “Shelter in place sounds like a World War II effort. Like bombs are coming down,” Herbert said. “We have enough fear going around.”
The governor addressed what some have complained about on social media – photos of people still crowding on trailheads and other areas of the state’s parks.
“That needs to stop,” Herbert said.
To that end, state parks will only be available to residents who live in the county the park is located. For example, only residents of Washington County will be able to visit Snow Canyon and Sand Hollow state parks while the directive is in place. Herbert said the availability of national parks like Zion and Bryce Canyon is being reviewed with the federal government.
President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill Friday that includes funds for states. Herbert said the state will “probably” have a special legislative session in the next three weeks to determine how that money is spent.
Among other highlights of the directive that can be read here:
- Individuals are asked to stay and work from home as much as possible, avoid any public gathering, or visiting friends or family without urgent need. They are also asked to limit market and grocery store visits to a minimum.
- Parents are asked to not allow children on public playground equipment, or arrange playdates or similar activities.
- Restaurants are recommended to be limited to carryout and delivery.
- People are urged to maintain a six-foot distance apart when outside and not to congregate at trailheads and other outdoor spaces. People are also urged not to visit gyms or fitness centers.
- Travel should be limited to relocating after a home is unsafe, transporting children for visiting schedules, care for pets, seek emergency services, donate blood, obtain food, work (if telework is not available), engage in outdoor activities or laundry needs.
- People are recommended not to engage in close-contact or team sports.
- Businesses are encouraged to enable more working from home. If work has to be on-site, a six-foot distance should be maintained.
- Businesses are asked to require workers exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and not require a test result or doctor’s note if someone stays home with illness.
- Exemptions apply to health care professionals, law enforcement, faith leaders and charitable organizations.
Herbert cited having to change his own family traditions, including Sunday dinners with his six children and 17 grandchildren. But he said not taking these measures will make it tougher to reach a point where the coronavirus pandemic gets left to the history books.
“I understand we’re doing things that will make you feel uncomfortable,” Herbert said. “We’re in the throes of a challenging time. Unprecedented of any time in our history. There’s evidence we’ve gotten ahead of this better than other states but we can’t let up.”
COVID-19 information resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Utah Department of Health
- Intermountain Healthcare
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