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Salt Lake County has issued its version of a stay-at-home order, forcibly closing more businesses, such as barbershops, salons and tattoo parlors, and directing all individuals to limit their trips outside to only “essential activities."
The move came the same day that Utah’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 719 — up 117 from the previous day. It’s now the second day in a row with a jump of more than 100 in the state, according to new figures released Sunday by the Utah Department of Health.
And while the state reported that the number of deaths remained at two, The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed with families later in the day that at least two more people have died from the virus. That includes a 24-year-old woman with existing heart problems and Robert H. Garff, an auto executive and former Utah House speaker.
Salt Lake County saw its number of cases jump to 324 on Sunday, up from 279.
County Mayor Jenny Wilson has said she was waiting for the numbers she felt would require action. This order is slightly stronger than one issued by Salt Lake City, though the city’s order will be repealed in light of the county’s.
“The goals are to save lives and stop our hospital system from being overrun,” Wilson said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel sooner rather than later.”
The mayor added that her order is intended to strike "the right balance” between protecting the public and safeguarding the economy. The declaration closes a number of businesses — though many have already voluntarily shut their doors — including hair and nail salons, spas and massage parlors, as well as swimming pools, playgrounds, recreation centers, movie theaters, bowling alleys and social clubs.
Grocery stores, child care centers, hotels and more are considered “essential” and are not required to close. Food service can continue under the governor’s orders requiring that no patrons dine-in.
Wilson’s order has the same name as the one issued by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday: “Stay safe. Stay home.” But unlike the voluntary provisions in that, the county’s order makes compliance mandatory for residents. Violators can be charged with a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The mayor said enforcement will focus on egregious infractions and most people will receive a warning first.
That makes it more similar to the order issued by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Friday, which compelled residents to stay home unless they were doing one of a few approved activities, such as caring for family members or friends; seeking emergency services; obtaining medications, medical services and food; exercising; and donating blood.
Now that order with be superseded by Wilson’s. And the city will issue a new directive focused only on Salt Lake City International Airport, not allowing anyone inside without an airline ticket or airport badge and requiring all passenger drop-offs and pickups be done curbside or in the parking garage.
“We’re all generally on the same page," Wilson said. “It’s time to send a stronger message to the community.”
Salt Lake County’s order — which covers about 1.1 million residents — begins Monday and lasts until at least April 13.
“The degree to which community members follow this order will directly determine how well Salt Lake County weathers this outbreak,” added Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.
The county’s order is significantly stronger than the governor’s, which asks people to commit more to social distancing.
Under his soft directive, Herbert is asking Utahns to not attend any gatherings with anyone outside their household. Children shouldn’t be attending school, and they shouldn’t be having play dates or going to public playgrounds.
Wilson reiterated those commands in her directive, noting, there’s some “overlap." Residents can still hike, walk their dogs and jog outside, she added. But the mayor does not want people to play team sports or gather at parks. It comes, too, after the county already issued a health order restricting groups to no more than 10 individuals.
The mayor also encourages other counties to follow suit, saying one case can have a “cascade effect” impacting everyone in the state.
Summit County was the first in Utah to issue a stay-at-home order, which came Wednesday and took effect Friday. On Sunday, the cases in Summit increased to 159, from 135. The tourist and ski destination continues to have the highest per capita rate in the state.
“We remind the public that there are likely several times more cases than have been confirmed and that they should act not only as if they have been exposed to COVID-19, but also as if they are carrying the virus,” urged Derek Siddoway, the county’s spokesman.
Utah County also saw its biggest spike yet, jumping from 31 cases to 51 on Sunday. Those numbers include at least two individuals at Brigham Young University.
Aislynn Tolman-Hill, spokeswoman for the Utah County Health Department, said the counts represent some quick community spread and she believes the cases will continue to increase.
“It’s something we have been anticipating,” she added. “But we have to just keep reiterating: Please stay at home as much as possible.”
Overall, there was a 19% increase in Utah, with the growth being a bit slower Sunday than it was Saturday. And the total number of people tested in the 24-hour period also rose from 11,312 to 13,993. Roughly 5% of the people tested have been confirmed to have the virus.
Currently, the one area of Utah left without any confirmed cases is the health district covering the central part of the state.
Southeast Utah reported its first case Sunday. And San Juan County now has four, up from one.
Kirk Benge, the health director for San Juan County, said those patients all live on the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation, and he believes they got it from family members living nearby in Arizona. The numbers are counted for the state but also appear as part of the total for the Navajo Nation, too, which now has more than 90 cases.
He worries about spread in the rural area of the country, where many lack electricity and some don’t have running water.
“That’s always a fear," Benge said, “and that’s what we’re trying to work toward figuring out.”
The director also pleaded that people stop visiting San Juan County to go rock climbing or see the national monument at Bears Ears. Already, he said, the area is circled by cases in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
“We’re surrounded on all sides,” he said. “We don’t have the hospital resources for this to be a refuge for people to come to at this point.”