Governor moves Garfield, Beaver counties to green COVID-19 status

Rendering of the COVID-19 form of the coronavirus. | Photo by berkozel, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary Herbert has moved Garfield and Beaver counties to the green recommended restrictions level for the coronavirus.

Infographic by Chris Reed, St. George News | Illustration of virus by Fusion Medical Animation/Unsplash, St. George News

The order makes Washington and Iron counties the only areas in Southern Utah that will remain in yellow status. Kane County got the approval to go green last week.

The order takes effect as of 1 p.m. Friday.

Under green, most of the restrictions recommended by the state for businesses and individuals are released, though individuals are still encouraged to follow social distancing and wear face coverings when that is not possible. 

Groups of any size are allowed and schools can reopen. 

Garfield County has had four total cases since the first positive test in Southern Utah on March 21. Beaver County has practically been an oasis from the virus, not having any coronavirus cases until Monday

Citing Beaver County, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn recently mentioned rural areas having “natural social distancing.” That was echoed in a statement by Herbert Thursday afternoon.

Chart shows the rise in cases in Southern Utah from the coronavirus from May 1 to June 18, 2020, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. Click to enlarge. | Chart by Chris Reed, St. George News

“The nine counties moving into the green, or ‘new normal’ risk category account for a wide swath of Utah’s geography but only 3% of Utah’s population. They also have some of Utah’s lowest case counts and hospitalization rates,” Herbert said. “The rural lifestyle they enjoy is defined by wider physical distancing, and smaller, less densely populated towns. Although no area is completely free from risk, we feel comfortable having these sparsely populated regions transition from yellow to green.”

However, Herbert signaled that the rural counties moving green doesn’t necessarily give a green light to more populated counties, as overall hospitalizations, deaths and infections have been on a steady rise in the rest of Southern Utah and the state as a whole.

“I continue to be very concerned, however, about the potential threat to hospital capacity from the increasing case counts in our more densely populated regions. As we re-engage economically, we need greater personal responsibility, not less,” Herbert said.

To underscore that point, Southern Utah saw it’s first death of a nursing home resident Thursday. The Utah Department of Health reports the deceased was a male long-term care facility resident between the ages of 65 and 84.

The name of the long-term care facility was not released.

Up until now, while nursing homes have been a source of infections and deaths in the northern part of the state, nursing and other housing for the elderly has been virus-free in Southern Utah.

COVID-19 information resources

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of June 18, 2020, one-day increase in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 919 (30 new)
  • Washington County: 716 (27 new)
  • Iron County: 194 (3 new)
  • Garfield County: 4 
  • Kane County: 4 
  • Beaver County: 1 

Deaths: 9 (1 new)

  • Washington County: 7 (1 new)
  • Iron County: 1
  • Garfield County: 1

Hospitalized: 23 (3 less) 

Tested: 16,544 (546 new tests)

Recovered: 668 (40 new)

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

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