Utah's governor issues 'Stay Safe, Stay Home' directive to stop coronavirus spread

Posted at 3:09 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 23:52:26-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert issued a directive to Utahns to "stay safe, stay home" as the coronavirus spreads.

FOX 13 first reported on the governor's directive earlier in the day on Friday. It is not a stay-at-home order, which carries the potential for criminal charges. Instead, it is a directive for Utahns to follow until at least April 13.

"I recognize we're asking you to do some things that are uncomfortable and disruptive," the governor said during an address to the people of Utah on Friday afternoon.

The directive asks Utahns to stay at home, going out only when necessary to keep from spreading COVID-19. He said by doing it, Utahns could expect to see things improve in a few weeks instead of a few months.

The directive allows people to leave to go to work (but encourages working from home), for health care, groceries, and even go for walks or hikes. But it discourages recreational travel, childrens' play dates and visits to gyms. State parks will only be available to residents in the county where it's located.

"Some of this is a re-emphasis of what you already know," the governor said.

Gov. Herbert urged people to self-quarantine if they exhibit symptoms and engage in appropriate social distancing when outside their homes, which includes remaining 6-feet apart. He pleaded with people to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.

"You're going to have to cut down and not visit friends and family," he said, urging people to take advantage of video chat platforms and phone calls.

In his address, the governor urged people to look out for their neighbors and those in need, while also supporting businesses. He urged people to order take-out three times a week, if they could.

"We like to go out and socialize," he said. "For right now, do not dine out except for carryout and delivery, curbside services."

The governor has faced increasing calls to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. But he has resisted, citing a need to balance public health with Utah's economy. Unemployment is rising as COVID-19 impacts the state.

But Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson have said they would like to issue their own stay-at-home orders. The mayors have been in dialogue with the governor since Monday when FOX 13 reported Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she was contemplating her own stay-at-home order after families showed up at the Salt Lake City International Airport, defying public health recommendations. New regulations were put in place at the airport.

The governor's directive allowed local governments to issue their own orders. On Friday evening, Mayor Mendenhall issued a proclamation that made the governor's directive the law in Salt Lake City.

In Utah County, commissioners said they supported the governor's directive but had no plans to issue their own stay-at-home order.

On Utah's Capitol Hill, House Democrats called for the governor to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

"The numbers that we’re seeing in Utah suggest there needs to be more aggressive action taken to get us to a point where we are flattening the curve more effectively," House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said in an interview with FOX 13 on Friday.

Rep. King praised the state for its coronavirus response efforts when compared to the federal government. But he believed the governor ought to do more.

"The information we’re receiving suggest the more aggressive you can be, the more likely it is that you end up helping yourself in both numbers of saved life and economic and financial affects of the pandemic," he said.

On Friday, the novel coronavirus outbreak in Utah claimed another life. A woman in southwestern Utah with underlying health conditions was reported to have died from it. That makes two fatalities in the state and 480 positive cases of COVID-19. So far, the Utah Department of Health reported 9,244 tests had been administered.

Dr. Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist, said there were promising signs that Utah was starting to "flatten the curve" and urged people to continue to stay at home and practice social distancing.

"Our case increases on a daily basis continue to be steady here in Utah and that’s a good sign. We have not yet seen an exponential increase surrounding states and other states across the country have seen," she told reporters. "So that means our social distancing measures and our public health measures are working currently."

Read the declaration here: