SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Jenny Wilson announced plans to begin slowly re-opening businesses across Utah's most populous county, but said there would be more restrictions than other parts of the state.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the mayor said she still had concerns about loosening restrictions with the county's high caseload of COVID-19, but her orders, effective May 1, would largely align with Governor Gary Herbert's order to move Utah from "red" to "orange" risk level.
"I have concerns and I'm requiring conditions for restaurants and businesses that are opening," Mayor Wilson.
Mayor Wilson said Salt Lake County has seen great improvements in COVID-19 cases. Testing remains strong and the level of cases shows they have "dramatically pushed down the level" in the county. Spread rate has gone from 1:6 to about 1:1 1/2, but that means the virus will still be with us, she said.
"As businesses open, they will need to operate differently and customers will need to take precautions as well," Mayor Wilson said.
The biggest thing? Wearing face masks in public will be more required in Salt Lake County than other places in the state. Any business that deals with the public will have to utilize face coverings.
"How many of you have gone to a home repair store or convenience store lately and seen many people not wearing face coverings?" Mayor Wilson said. "This needs to stop."
Mayor Wilson's measures had the support of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
"We're grateful for the state making two million masks available in the coming weeks for residents," Mayor Mendenhall said in an interview with FOX 13, referring to the state's new program to give away masks for those who need them. "And completely support Mayor Wilson's initiative to go further in the mandate the wearing of masks in public places."
For businesses and venues to re-open, the Salt Lake County Health Department said any ill employees and customers will be not be allowed in.
Here's what else will be required:
- Restaurant dine-in will be allowed, by the county health department will require employees and customers to be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19. Face masks will be required for employees (it is also strongly recommended for customers, who can take them off to eat). Physical distancing will still be required, including a six-foot buffer between customer groups. Tables and chairs will be disinfected after customer use. The mayor pushed for people to still do take-out or curbside pickup instead of dine-in.
- Personal service businesses like hair and nail salons, day spas, massage studios, body art and tanning businesses can re-open, but by appointment only. They must also keep logs for health department inspection. Both employees and customers must wear face coverings (the only exception being for a brief moment to facilitate a service, like a hair cut around the ears). There will be a six-foot distance between work stations and disinfecting must take place between services.
- Cultural, entertainment and sports venues can re-open, but they must wear face coverings. Physical distancing of at least six feet will apply to all places. Movie theaters, sports arenas and other venues with auditorium and stadium seating must have 10-feet of space between groups of people. There will be two vacant rows between groups. The first five rows will be empty for live performances. Venues with cages or lanes must have 1-2 lanes vacant between people. Disinfecting will take place more frequently.
- Retail stores will have employees required to wear face coverings, and customers are recommended to, as well.
- Gyms and fitness centers must require face masks for employees (it's recommended for customers, too) and enforce a distance of 10-feet between people for workouts. Equipment must be disinfected between uses and hot tubs and children's pools remain closed. Swimming lap pools are limited to one swimmer per lane.
- Playgrounds and team sports remain closed and prohibited.
- Family gatherings (including funerals, weddings and religious ceremonies) will be limited to small groups of close family and friends who are not ill, if social distancing and hygiene practices are practiced.
- The general public is still encouraged to social distance at least six feet from others in public, wear face masks, limit social interactions to less than 20 people and limit out-of-state travel, quarantining for 14 days when returning home. Working from home is emphasized.
- High risk individuals and those over 65 should wear face masks, leave home only when essential, limit visits with family and friends unless there is an urgent need and limit attending gatherings.
"This, from day one, has had to be a primary responsibility that we own as individuals and a community. We must continue with that understanding and attitude," health department director Gary Edwards said, acknowledging some may not follow the order.
The mayor said her new order largely mirrors the governor's new order, including the expiration date. But the Salt Lake County order can still carry criminal charges and fines. But Edwards said personal responsibility will dictate how long this lasts.
"Let's all own our responsibility and what we can do. If we continue to do that, we can continue to be successful," he said.
Mayor Mendenhall noted that Salt Lake City still has a higher caseload of COVID-19 than the rest of the state.
"We have the highest rates for disease and our timeline for stabilization is certainly going to lag behind our partners in the county and statewide data," she told FOX 13. "But is also doesn’t make economic sense for us to keep businesses closed here when everyone around us is re-opening."
Mayor Mendenhall said she did not anticipate issuing her own proclamations, but would continue to work with Gov. Herbert and Mayor Wilson as they issued their respective orders. Salt Lake City's mayor said people need to understand the higher caseload.
Asked if she was comfortable with the governor's decision to start loosening restrictions, Mayor Mendenhall said she wasn't sure if anyone was "100% comfortable."
"Maybe in rural areas of the state that haven’t yet seen the virus spread. But here in these urbanized areas, where we’re surrounded by other cities, we’re surrounded and impacted by other people’s decisions on a day-to-day basis. This is scary, but COVID-19 is very serious. I take it seriously," she said. "I urge our business and residents to take it seriously. Going back to normal isn’t something we’re going to see for a very long time."