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FOX 13, other news outlets seek names of Utah Co. businesses accused of ignoring COVID-19 guidelines

Posted at 4:05 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 23:57:05-04

PROVO, Utah — In a letter sent to Utah County government officials, FOX 13 and other news outlets demand the names of a pair of businesses accused of violating health directives and guidelines by demanding employees come to work even if they had symptoms of COVID-19, leading to 68 positive cases.

The letter is written by attorney Michael O'Brien, who is representing FOX 13, The Salt Lake Tribune, the Provo Daily Herald, the Deseret News and KUTV. It is in response to a series of public records requests being denied by the county, arguing that the businesses do not need to be named by health officials because they are not "public facing."

O'Brien argues that "no business is isolated from the public."

"The two involved businesses may not have store fronts or retail operations, but they likely have sales people, purchase supplies, receive/make deliveries, put their products in the stream of commerce, utilize repair/maintenance services, have business visitors, share space and common building/parking areas with others, and interact for business reasons with others," he wrote. "The employees of these businesses dine, shop, go home, go to church, visit with family and friends, get their hair cut and interact with others in countless other ways. The actions of these businesses have put hundreds of persons at risk at a time when we are all called upon to protect ourselves and others from this highly contagious disease."

Revealing the names, O'Brien wrote, would allow the public at large to take steps to protect themselves and others. Restaurant inspection reports are routinely made public, as are companies that have lax safety standards.

The two unnamed businesses are accused of disregarding health orders and directives, including insisting an employee with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis come to work, according to Utah County commissioners, who issued a statement earlier this month condemning the practice. They reported that the decisions by the two businesses in separate parts of the county caused 68 positive cases.

"There are human costs because of the direct exposure to the virus on the health side, and there are human costs related to economic lockdown and isolation. And these examples jeopardize the progress we’ve been making in both fronts," Commission Chair Tanner Ainge said at the time.

FOX 13 and others filed public records requests seeking the names of the businesses. It was rejected last week.

O'Brien suggested in the letter that the news media outlets intend to take the matter to court, if necessary.

Read the letter here: