SALT LAKE CITY — One year ago Saturday, former Governor Gary Herbert issued a state of emergency for the novel coronavirus in Utah.
The state had yet to see its first case (although that would change in a matter of hours), and officials were hard at work devising a plan to deal with the impending pandemic.
"Earlier today, I issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus in our country,” he said as a part of the video announcing the declaration, "and I'd like to let you know that declaring a state of emergency does not indicate that our state is in distress, but we are in a state of readiness.”
Herbert spoke with FOX 13 Saturday, reflecting on those moments.
“It was new, so we did not know. We had threats of epidemics and pandemics in the past… that had fizzled out,” he said. “So we didn't know what to expect. We tried to do everything we could to keep it in control.”
One of the things emphasized early on by his administration was the preparedness and planning surrounding Utah's hospital and healthcare systems, something that would be put to test later on March 6, 2020.
“A few hours later, we found out that the first positive case in Utah had been identified,” recalled Joe Dougherty, a spokesman with the Department of Public Safety. “That just became a really long day.”
The next day, Dr. Angela Dunn released details on the case.
"The patient is a resident of Davis County and is believed to have been exposed to coronavirus on the Grand Princess cruise ship," Dunn said on March 7, 2020.
Through it all, Herbert says that this was the toughest year for Utahns and others around the world.
"It's across the board the most dramatic thing I think that has happened in all of our lifetimes… short of war," he said.
But he says that it ultimately made him realize how incredible and resilient the people of the state are.
“What I've come to appreciate now more than ever — and maybe not without this pandemic — is the good of the people of Utah,” Herbert emphasized. “There's a reason that our slogan in the state of Utah is “life elevated.” It really is not a slogan — it's a way of life. It's how we ought to conduct ourselves… to elevate us those around us… Those that we know and those that we don’t. That's the core of Utah.”