Salt Lake County issues new guidance for residents, businesses as coronavirus restrictions lift

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) In an effort to keep parks open during the coronavirus pandemic, signs are placed at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, encouraging people to social distance as warm temperatures bring people out to recreate on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Under new guidance issued by Salt Lake County on Wednesday, a number of businesses will be allowed to open back up as soon as May 1.

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Salt Lake County leaders issued new guidance Wednesday for businesses and residents as the state begins to lift restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The recommendations largely mirror Gov. Gary Herbert’s plan to move from a red “high risk” level, as described in his Utah Leads Together 2.0 Plan, to an orange, or “moderate,” risk level. Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Gary Edwards said early on in the day that the county would be stricter, requiring masks in some cases while the statewide plan, for example, only recommends them. But county leaders updated those requirements later Wednesday to match the state’s directives.

The new health order will carry the force of law and violators can be charged with a class B misdemeanor, the penalty for flouting any public health order. County leaders said there will be enforcement for egregious cases but that they hope residents will comply voluntarily.

And if data shows the reopening is increasing the number of infections, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said the county will make changes quickly to protect public health.

“I do believe we’ll see some benefit on the economic side, but for me health is still the priority,” she said of the changes.

The mayor acknowledged there are many businesses that are ready to reopen but said she hopes that some “will take their time" to allow for a phased approach. “We can’t go from zero to 100."

As the state and county begin to reopen, the county encouraged residents to remain vigilant to protect their health by continuing to practice social distancing, staying home when they’re feeling ill and washing their hands often.

“Social distancing and other common sense disease prevention measures must continue as we enter this new phase,” Edwards said. “We still need to stay home as much as possible. If you feel sick, you must stay home. If you’re an older person or a person with underlying medical conditions that put you at higher risk, you’re still in the red category. You stay home.”

Here’s a rundown of some of the new requirements, which could take effect as soon as Friday, when the mayor’s current stay-at-home order expires:

Restaurants • Curbside pickup and delivery are still encouraged, Edwards said during a streamed news conference Wednesday. But food services will be allowed to open with some new requirements.

Customer groups will be limited to six people, and those who are waiting and dining must maintain a 6-foot social distance from those in different households. The total number of guests must not exceed 50% of the approved occupancy limit and customers are encouraged to call in to avoid long wait times. Children’s play areas inside and outside of restaurants must remain closed and employees will be required to wear face masks.

Service industries • Personal service businesses like hair and nail salons, day spas and massage and tanning parlors are allowed to operate by appointment only and with daily symptom checking of employees. Employees are required to wear face coverings and workstations need to be at least 6 feet apart.

Gyms and fitness centers • Employees are required to wear face masks and clients are encouraged to wear them. Guidance for social distancing in gyms and fitness centers is 10 feet of distance in workout areas and employees are required to disinfect equipment after each use. Lap pools can have one swimmer per lane and recreation pools cannot exceed 50% of their capacity. Hot tubs will not be allowed to operate in this phase.

Cultural entertainment and sports venues • Six feet of separation is the standard guideline and establishments must work to monitor the number of guests entering and congregating. Movie theaters, sports arenas and other venues with auditorium or stadium seating must maintain 10 feet of separation between household groups.

Reserved-seating facilities with stage performers should keep at least three empty seats between individuals or family groups in each row, at least two vacant rows between occupied rows, and the first five rows should be left vacant in auditoriums where performers sing or speak toward the audience.

Even with the new guidance, Utahns shouldn’t expect to visit any of Salt Lake County’s four performance venues — Abravanel Hall, the Capitol Theatre, Eccles Theatre and the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center — any time soon.

Salt Lake County Arts and Culture, the county agency that manages those sites, announced Wednesday that it would extend their coronavirus-mandated closure through June 30. The shutterings had been set to go through May 15, prompting the Utah Symphony (which calls Abravanel Hall home), and Capitol Theatre residents Utah Opera and Ballet West to cut short their seasons.

With the longer closure, more performances will likely be postponed or canceled, including the touring production of the musical “Anastasia,” June 9-14 at Eccles Theatre; the Gina Bachauer 2020 Junior International Piano Competition, set for June 15-18 at the Rose Wagner; and the Utah Symphony’s performance of the music of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” accompanying the film, June 19-21 at Abravanel Hall.

Social interactions • Gatherings are limited to groups of 20 or fewer while still maintaining social distancing. Small groups of families and friends who are not ill may attend funerals, weddings and religious ceremonies. Team sports remain prohibited and people are asked to continue prioritizing virtual interactions over in-person ones and to work remotely where possible.

Those over age 65 are encouraged to leave home only for essential activities, to limit visitations with family and friends, not attend gatherings of any number of people and to refrain from visiting hospitals, nursing homes or other residential care facilities.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Sean P. Means contributed to this story