SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert has issued an executive order, requiring people over age 18 who enter the state to complete a travel declaration in a new effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus.
FOX 13 first reported on discussions of inbound travel monitoring earlier Wednesday.
"This travel declaration will ask travelers if they’ve been tested for COVID-19 particularly in the last 14 days and what the test results are. It will ask if they’re currently experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and to detail where they’ve traveled before they came to Utah," Gov. Herbert said at a news conference.
The Utah Department of Transportation intends to utilize "geo-fencing" at nine different points of entry to the state along I-80, I-15, I-70 and some state roads. People who travel across the state line will get a text message through an emergency alert system. It will direct them to a website where they will be asked to fill out a travel declaration, UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras said.
The travel declarations are voluntary and do not carry a penalty for failure to fill it out. However, Braceras said the system will let them monitor how many vehicles are compliant.
"We do not see this as an effort to penalize people. We see this is an effort to inform and gather data," he told reporters.
At Salt Lake City International Airport, people who arrive on inbound flights will be given a card where they will also fill out the same travel declaration, Mayor Erin Mendenhall said.
"Each and every person coming into the state is still a new opportunity for the virus to spread, whether they are residents or visitors," she told reporters.
Mayor Mendenhall said UDOT had also procured for the airport some no-touch temperature sensors, but those have not yet arrived.
After a dramatic spike in cases in Summit County, local authorities there issued the state's first stay-at-home order and told visitors to leave and those with second homes in the Park City area to stay away.
Recently, the governor asked the U.S. Department of Interior to close Zion National Park after a large influx of out-of-state tourists in the midst of the pandemic. Political leaders in southwestern Utah pleaded for the closure, saying that two weeks ago, they documented 9,000 visitors to the park and 70% of them were from outside the state. They feared that rural hospitals and clinics could not handle an increase in cases of novel coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 1,846 positive cases of COVID-19 in Utah. The state had received 36,116 test results back. Since the beginning of the outbreak, 158 have been hospitalized in Utah and there are now 13 fatalities.
While his executive order is directed at people out-of-state, the governor did express concerns that Utahns could make things worse. He said with Easter weekend, Spring Break and nicer weather, the temptation for many to get outdoors and travel is very high. The governor urged people to stay home to stop the spread of the virus. He said only essential travel is allowed under his directive (and many local health department orders). People can still go outside for a walk, but they must avoid gathering in large groups and exercise social distancing.
"Together we can get through this," Gov. Herbert said.
Mayor Mendenhall said for the most part, people were complying with local health orders. Salt Lake City has created a website for people to report violations of social distancing and stay-at-home orders.