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Salt Lake County eyes early May for possible phased-in re-opening

Posted at 11:13 AM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 23:09:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said she is looking at a phased-in re-opening of businesses and a lifting of her stay-at-home order by the first part of May.

"We are now, as counties and cities, looking at methods and systems to begin opening. And we talk about a light switch, 'we’re on-off and we’re going to go on.' That’s not what’s going to happen," she said in an interview with FOX 13. "We've got to dial. We've got to turn our light back on slowly."

Still, the mayor said she was seeing positive signs, even as residents have dealt with not only the pandemic but an earthquake and more than 1,200 aftershocks.

"We've seen really good response by our community to the virus. I feel like I'm breathing again, not that we have any short-term solutions," she said. "We're going to have to remain vigilant, but I feel like we're getting through this."

Mayor Wilson was reacting to pending bills in the Utah State Legislature that would put some regulations on local health department orders and establish a commission to re-open Utah. The mayor said she would hope state lawmakers would cooperate with local governments.

"What we’re looking at is opening up again. So what we need more than ever is that cooperation," she said, adding: "I want to emphasize we do want to cooperate. It’s in the best interests of our constituents."

Salt Lake County is among several counties along the Wasatch Front who issued stay-at-home orders as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It has rankled some lawmakers, who feel they have overreached and led to confusing edicts between borders. House Bill 3009 now requires a county or city executive to sign-off on a health order, then have it approved by a county or city legislative branch. The bill does give the governor's office some veto power.

The policy outlined in the bill is largely what Mayor Wilson has already done. She signed the stay-at-home orders, in addition to Salt Lake County Health Director Gary Edwards.

"I want to emphasize that Salt Lake County is allowing businesses to be open with the exception of the restaurant modifications that are statewide, as well as the personal service businesses that don’t allow for that social distancing," the mayor said. "So we are right now preparing, and I don’t have a date, but preparing measures and systems and additional protective matters that can be required by our health department to get those exact operations up again."

Mayor Wilson said that as they look to eventually re-opening things in Salt Lake County, she wanted to ensure health officials' voices were included in the discussion, so they don't see a resurgence of cases. The mayor said any lifting of orders would come if there was a decline in COVID-19 cases.

"We feel confident it will be in May, I’m hoping it’s early May," Mayor Wilson told FOX 13. "But until we really have a little more understanding of our trend and get a bit more information, I don’t think we can release a date. The other thing is we want to spend time, see if we can get other counties on the same page."

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson held a virtual news conference to share her plan to get Salt Lake County businesses open once again.

Mayor Wilson announced the lifting of some restrictions mentioned in the county-wide stay-at-home order. The first adjustment is allowing people to enter dining establishments to pick up orders, dine-in services are still not available. Also announced is that the stay-at-home order is more lax.

"We are starting to feel like our data and the information we are getting in most areas is strong enough that we can feel comfortable going out again - but again taking our best friend the mask with us," Mayor Wilson said.

Mayor Wilson emphasized that with these lifts on some orders, residents should still practice social distancing and wearing masks in public.