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No plans for statewide stay-at-home order in COVID-19 pandemic, Utah Dept. of Health says

SLC, SL County consider their own orders
Posted: 3:28 PM, Mar 26, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-26 23:50:51-04
Dr. Angela Dunn

SALT LAKE CITY — Summit County's stay-at-home order will go into effect on Friday, pushing residents to only venture out for necessary tasks as health officials combat a high caseload of coronavirus.

But so far, there are no plans to do anything like it across Utah.

"We are consistently working with our local health officers, as well as local and state elected officials, to determine the best course forward for Utah given our case counts," said Dr. Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.

Summit County has a higher percentage of cases than anywhere else in the state, she said. Governor Gary Herbert, who has resisted calls for a statewide stay-at-home order, supported the county's decision. His office told FOX 13 that discussions remain ongoing about whether other counties might pursue orders similar to Summit County.

In an interview with FOX 13 earlier this week, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she was considering an order. In a video statement to constituents on Thursday, she said actions the city takes will only go so far noting the capital city is not in a "bubble."

"It is so much more impactful if we can act together," she said, referring to the state and county.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a statement Thursday that she would support a stay-at-home order, but deferred to the state.

"I believe a stay-at-home order is likely necessary to avoid overburdening our hospitals as early as April, but a decision like that is best done in coordination with the State of Utah, our neighboring counties, and our municipalities," she said.

"Today I convened an excellent meeting with state leaders and hospital representatives to collect and compare data so we all can make the most informed decisions. Until we have that information, all Utahns should rigorously follow the existing guidance regarding social distancing and frequent handwashing."

Among those who do believe a stay-at-home order would be prudent is Salt Lake County Councilwoman Shireen Ghorbani.

"I believe that we should be issuing an order asking people to stay at home and I hope the governor moves in a similar direction to give support to counties who feel like it’s the right thing to do," she said in an interview Thursday with FOX 13.

Councilwoman Ghorbani said she has heard from constituents across the county who remain concerned that businesses are ignoring social distancing guidelines and people are still being put at risk. She said discussions are ongoing about whether new orders would come from Salt Lake County.

Until any measures are put in place, Councilwoman Ghorbani urged people to act as if we were already living under one.

"I believe the residents of Salt Lake County should be living as though we have a stay at home order at this point," she told FOX 13. "The best thing that we can do to get back to some semblance of normalcy is to take very seriously the health recommendations which are limit those trips outside your home, stay six feet apart from each other as much as possible and really practice those good health behaviors now."

A stay-at-home order still allows people to go out for things like grocery shopping, medical visits, and even a walk (while exercising proper social distancing), but violations can be a misdemeanor charge.

With 402 positive cases out of 7,710 tests conducted as of Thursday, Dr. Dunn said there were promising signs that social distancing and people voluntarily staying at home has been working.

"This is the third day in a row that we’ve seen a decrease in the rate of cases and this is a good thing," she said.

However, it would be some time before more concrete data was available as testing continues to ramp up, Dr. Dunn cautioned. She also urged people to continue social distancing and staying at home, noting that it could be several months before Utah is past this.

"There’s health, economics, business, school and the policy makers take all that information and make the best policy recommendation that they see are fit," she told reporters. "We’re constantly working with our health departments on this. But right now there are no plans to issue a statewide stay at home order."