Besides encouraging locals to stay home, officials ask visitors to postpone trips to Washington County

ST. GEORGE — Washington County and municipal officials came together and issued a joint press release Tuesday in collective support of Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive. The release reiterated the steps the governor laid out for all Utahns to observe during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as asking people to refrain from traveling to Washington County.

The Washington County Commission, St. George, Utah, Sept. 17, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“Our cities and towns in conjunction with Washington County and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department are working together to communicate to our citizens the actions they should collectively take to protect one another,” the press release states.

“We also ask those who would be inclined to travel to Washington County at this beautiful time of the year to put off those plans until another time. … We look forward to hosting you again when the threat to the health of our visitors and residents is past!”

Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said the joint message was discussed between the commission, the Southwest Utah Health Department and the Washington County Association of Mayors.

“It’s our attempt to encourage everybody to follow the governor’s directive,” Iverson said.

The “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive, as it has become known, was rolled out last Friday and calls for strict observance of social distancing guidelines set forth by the state. However, it fell short of becoming a mandated, shelter-in-place order.

The county wants to be welcoming to visitors, Iverson said, but due to the pandemic, everyone has been asked to stay home and stay in place.

Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson shares what projects of note the county is working on in 2020, St. George. Utah, Jan. 13, 2020 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“With this particular sickness, people can travel and not feel (sick) or know that they have symptoms and then engage and interact with members of the community and share those viruses with us,” he said. “We want to be welcoming, but for now, we’d like everyone to fellow the governor’s directive and limit their travel.”

Still, there has been some discussion between the county and health department concerning a mandatory stay-at-home order as Salt Lake City and some counties in northern Utah have implemented. Officials are hoping that isn’t necessary as people do their part to observe the governor’s guidelines, Iverson said.

Ultimately, any decision to lock down the county would come through the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.

“We encourage people to be smart and use best practices like washing their hands and social distancing,” Iverson said.

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at the “2018 Business Summit” hosted by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce at the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, June 13, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The governor reemphasized the social distancing guidelines during the state’s daily COVID-19 update Wednesday.

“Avoid travel. Stay home and stay safe,” Herbert said. “Don’t travel anywhere unless it’s essential.”

As part of Wednesday’s update, Herbert also went from previously simply recommending people don’t visit state parks outside of their home county to saying that park employees will now enforce this regulation by checking IDs.

Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson said he totally supports what the county and its communities are trying to do.

“It’s a good message,” he said, adding he has faith in the county’s residents to observe the governor’s guidelines.

“I believe that people who have been taught correct principles can be expected to govern themselves,” Neilson said.

Washington County’s elected and health officials encourage residents to do the following:

  • Stay at home and work from home as much as possible.
  • Self-isolate for 14 days after traveling.
  • Contact your medical provider about possible testing for COVID-19 if you experience symptoms that include fever, coughing or shortness of breath.
  • Check on friends and relatives who are considered more vulnerable to COVID-19. This includes those ages 60 and older and, in particular, those with compromised immune systems. Contact them through phone calls, text messages and video chats.
  • Limit travel to only that which is essential. Essential travel includes trips to work that cannot be done remotely, grocery stores, restaurants for drive-up or curbside service, donate blood, obtain medications or medical services, and to provide needed or urgent care for family members and friends. Leisure drives are also allowed.
  • Run, walk or bicycle while maintaining 6 feet of social distancing.

Restrictions in the governor’s Stay Safe, Stay Home directive include:

  • Not visiting family or friends outside your household without urgent need.
  • Not attending any gathering that includes people outside your household or residence.
  • Engaging in appropriate social distancing when in public, including maintaining a 6-foot distance from others.
  • Not traveling to or participating in activities at gyms and fitness centers, places of public amusement such as bowling alleys and amusement centers or arcades, or public activities such as golf courses, pickleball courts and public swimming pools. These restrictions also prohibit use of public playground equipment.
  • Not participating in close contact or team sports.
  • Not congregating with people you don’t live with while at outdoor spaces such as trailheads or public parks and being mindful of others using that space.

“Area elected, business, and other organizational leaders recognize that practicing social distancing for the next several weeks is a personal sacrifice for many in our community,” the press release states. “We thank everyone for their efforts and encourage us all to be patient with one another both inside and outside our homes.”

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

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