ST. GEORGE — According to Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah will move away from the most extreme COVID-19 risk category “red” to a more moderate “orange” footing, allowing certain businesses to reopen beginning Friday.
The governor is expected to announce the specifics of opening up the state Wednesday. Schools and churches will likely remain closed, according to the Associated Press. Playground equipment will also be considered off-limits.
People will also be allowed to gather in groups of up to 20, but strict social-distancing measures will remain in place, including the recommendation of wearing protective masks.
Some businesses such as gyms and salons may reopen, as well as Lake Powell.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, people will still be encouraged to order carryout and delivery from restaurants, but dine-in service may be available if restaurants follow appropriate distance protocols, which include keeping table seating six feet apart and employees wearing masks.
Washington County officials said they will follow the governor’s directives but also have the leeway to set stronger criteria on businesses if required.
“As we take a look at how we balance the needs of getting our economy back up and keeping our citizens and residences safe … we want to give our businesses enough lead time to prepare to open up and get back to work,” Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said during a press conference Monday.
“We want to keep our citizens safe and our businesses alive,” he added.
Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said that although the COVID-19 outbreak has been mild in this part of the state, vigilance is still appropriate.
As of Tuesday, Southern Utah has reported 91 cases of the coronavirus with 62 in Washington County and 63 reporting patient recovery.
Currently, there are two in the hospital and two deaths reported in Washington and Iron counties respectively.
“The way that we have dealt with this effectively here has been and always will be an individual effort as well as a community effort to deal with the challenges of life,” Blodgett said. “The key to responding to any emergency is to do what we do but in a heightened and ramped up fashion.”
As Southern Utah shifts its strategy from a broad approach in shutting everything down to target continued care of those most a risk while also allowing businesses that have been effected to reopen, “The governor’s plan will help drive that process,” Blodgett said.
“We are unlikely to issue a more restrictive order than what the governor issues,” he added. “It is clear that we’ve reached the next phase as a state. We’ve accumulated data and watched the trends and it’s time to direct our efforts to look to protect our citizens and the financial health of communities.”
The governor’s plan will be available at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s website when released.
“We intend to move to orange level on May 1,” Blodgett said. “The plan relies on each of us to be personally responsible for keeping six feet of distance, wash our hands, wear masks in public places … stay at home if you are sick and be thoughtful of others.”
Guidance for businesses, Blodgett said, is to take all measures possible to keep employees and patrons safe.
“Allow employees who are sick to stay home, please screen employees daily and please be diligent in following the (governor’s) recommendations and his plan,” he said.
Herbert told the Associated Press that the steps already taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Utah have been “effective,” giving time for businesses and local governments to marshal their resources.
“Some people think we’re trying to get to a zero-risk situation. That’s not true,” he said. “Life has risk. We’re trying to manage the risk to tolerable levels that will let us go back and reopen the economy and yet protect people’s health.”
Health care officials continue to urge everyone considered high-risk to “please” stay home.
“Our goal is to have few, if any, infections in high-risk groups,” Blodgett said. “I think the goals are goals that we can get behind as a community. I am heartened by the many kindnesses I have seen. This is also a time of faith.”
COVID-19 information resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Utah Department of Health
- Intermountain Healthcare
- To Donate and Volunteer to Help
Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of April 28, 2020)
Positive COVID-19 tests: 91, with 63 recoveries.
- Washington County: 63 (4 new)
- Iron County: 21
- Garfield County: 3
- Kane County: 3
- Beaver County: 0
- Washington County: 1 (1 new)
- Iron County: 1
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