Utah begins quizzing arrivals in bid to rein in coronavirus, finds a ‘tremendous spirit of cooperation’

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Utah on Friday began asking people arriving in the state by car and plane why they are here, where they are going and how they’re feeling.

Utah is said to be the first U.S. state to conduct such surveys in hopes of isolating COVID-19 cases.

John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said staffers began handing postcards to people who arrived at the Salt Lake City International Airport at 7 a.m., asking them to declare whether they have coronavirus symptoms, whether they have been tested within the past 14 days and what they are doing in Utah.

As of Friday afternoon, Gleason said, no one had refused to complete the postcard.

“So far, these efforts have been very well received," he added, “and there’s been a tremendous spirit of cooperation.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign along Interstate 80 reads, "Aggressive is OK for handwashing not driving," in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 6, 2020.

Utah also began sending text alerts to drivers entering the state on nine interstates and highways. Like the hard-copy postcards, the alerts ask drivers — when they pull over — to go to the website entry.utah.gov and complete a survey asking if they have symptoms and to write down their travel plans.

Once filed, the state will send back a confirmation email. The information is to go to a secure Utah Department of Health database.

If people on the postcard or website say they have coronavirus symptoms, the health department is to follow up with them to encourage quarantining and ask with whom they have had recent contact.

Jess Anderson, commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, announced some exemptions to the surveys. They do not have to be completed by commercial airline employees arriving at the airport, all commercial truck drivers, military, public safety workers, health care providers and people who live and work in neighboring states.

Anderson said all the surveys are voluntary.