ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary Herbert issued several orders concerning the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday, including ordering a moratorium on evictions through May 15 as well as allowing tenants to defer rent payments through that date.
The governor also ordered state parks to only allow those living in the county to visit the park. He also issued orders for restaurants and those who have the virus or are around some who does.
Up until now, Herbert has issued recommendations and directives toward the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. That changed Wednesday.
“We’ve had a lot of people asking us the right thing to do,” Herbert said during what has become a daily coronavirus press conference. “This is how it will be put into place and we’ll see how it works.”
The executive order issued by the governor means landlords are not permitted to evict tenants for lack of payment, and tenants are permitted to defer payments until May 15 throughout the state.
“I know payments are due, but I also know because of COVID-19 people are struggling,” Herbert said. “We need to work together to find a way to get through this and consider forbearance.”
Herbert also addressed those who are seeking assistance after their jobs have been lost or furloughed because of virus-related shutdowns. Those who have lost their jobs can go to jobs.utah.gov and apply for assistance.
“Help is coming,” Herbert said. “Our staff is working literally 24 hours around the clock.”
Help is also available for homeowners on a national basis, as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation and the Federal National Mortgage Association each recently announced mortgage forbearance for 12 months and stopped all evictions through May 17.
Additionally, St. George News recently reported on how local utilities and municipalities are looking to address the issue of people in dire financial straits during the epidemic.
Park limitations now an order
As part of his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directives on March 27, the governor asked that visitors to state parks like Snow Canyon and Sand Hollow be limited to residents of the counties in which the parks are located.
However, reports of many ignoring signage to this effect at the state parks over the weekend made it clear that wasn’t enough.
“We will have our state parks enforce this,” Herbert said. “They will check your IDs.”
First case of COVID-19 in Kane County
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department announced the first positive test for COVID-19 in Kane County.
It continues to be the policy of SUPHD to not identify the exact location, gender and age of those who have tested positive for the virus.
With the first Kane County case, Beaver is now the only county in the department’s five-county jurisdiction not to have a recorded coronavirus case.
There were six new cases in total in Southern Utah over the last 24 hours, with Washington County now up to 18, or 55%, of the total cases in the area.
It has been 11 days since the first positive COVID-19 test was confirmed in Washington County.
There have also been six positive tests among non-resident visitors to Southern Utah, which is the second-largest number of visitor cases in the state behind nine in Summit County, which is also an area heavy on tourism.
There remains one death in Southern Utah and seven patients have now fully recovered.
State cases pass 1,000
As far as the state of Utah is concerned, two milestones were passed Wednesday: The Utah Department of Health announced the number of coronavirus cases has passed the 1,000 mark, and now every health department in the state has reported a case with Central Utah announcing its first case.
In total, as of Wednesday, there are 1,012 cases of coronavirus in Utah with 91 hospitalizations. Two more deaths – both in Salt Lake County – were reported, bringing the state total to seven.
Despite those milestones, Dr. Angela Dunn, who is heading the statewide coronavirus response, said the state is maintaining a 5% positive case rate and has had enough beds and ventilators to handle those who have needed them.
“We might be seeing the beginning of the flattening of the curve,” Dunn said, adding the state thus far is being spared the more stark figures nationwide that have seen 835 deaths in the last 24 hours and a doubling of the number of cases in the last two days.
“We are well below the exponential rate,” Dunn said of Utah. “That is evidence social distancing is working. People are doing this correctly.”
High rate of cases among young people in Utah
The state has released the first demographic information on the ages of those who have been infected in Utah, and they lean to the young side.
The Utah Department of Health said 40% of those who have tested positive for the virus are between the ages of 25-44. In contrast, only 12% have been above the age of 65.
Dunn said this shatters the image some may have that younger people are invulnerable to the virus.
“This speaks to everyone being at risk,” Dunn said, though she made clear those above 55 are still more likely to need hospitalization and a stay in an intensive care unit. “It just emphasizes the need for social distancing.”
COVID-19 information resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Utah Department of Health
- Intermountain Healthcare
Southern Utah coronavirus count
Positive COVID-19 tests: 33, including 1 death and 7 recoveries.
- Washington County: 18
- Iron County: 7
- Garfield County: 1
- Kane County: 1
- Visitors: 6
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