Summit County issues stay-at-home order, effective Friday, to combat spread of virus (updated)
Summit County officials on Wednesday issued an order that will require all residents to remain in their homes except for certain essential trips like going to the grocery store, indicating the drastic step to combat the coronavirus is necessary because the county is among the hardest-hit areas in the nation.
The order is set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and was detailed as the number of known cases in Summit County increased to 97. Local officials compared the growth rate in Summit County to that of Italy and New York City, two places where harrowing spread of COVID-19 has left health care infrastructure inundated.
Enacting the stay-at-home order will hopefully allow Summit County to avoid a similar fate, said Rich Bullough, Summit County’s health director.
“We’ve taken these steps and issued this order largely to protect our health care system,” Bullough said. “There’s good reason to believe that if the rates continue to rise and the percentage of hospitalization … maintains steady, our medical system will be at capacity very soon.”
The order is slated to last through May 1. It was issued by Bullough and County Manager Tom Fisher, as well as the Summit County Council, which approved it unanimously. Summit County is the first government in Utah to issue a stay-at-home order.
Under the order, only essential businesses will be allowed to remain open. Those include grocery stores, banks, hardware stores, post offices, essential transportation services, senior care facilities, farming operations and media outlets. Restaurants that have transitioned to providing curbside and delivery service in compliance with a previous order may also remain open.
State liquor stores will continue operating from noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, according to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The order stipulates that non-essential businesses may operate as long as employees work from home.
Residents are allowed to visit stores for necessary items like food and medicine. They may also recreate on trails or in other outdoor areas but are required to practice social distancing and must avoid places where social distancing is not possible.
Otherwise, they should remain at home.
“If we take action to reduce the spread of this thing, the duration of these actions might be reduced,” Bullough said. “We may be able to normalize sooner.”
Those visiting Summit County must leave by April 1. Additionally, owners of second homes who are not currently in the county are asked to stay away while the order is in place, as Summit County’s health care system is not prepared to handle an influx of visitors.
“This is not the place to come to ride out this storm,” Bullough said.
Also banned are public and private gatherings, superseding a separate order Monday that limited them to 10 people. The ban does not apply to people sharing a household.
Though Park City’s tourism industry was already essentially shut down following a March 15 order from Bullough that shuttered businesses where people gather and banned dine-in service at restaurants, Wednesday’s move further restricts the area economy at a time when business owners are typically enjoying the fruitful final weeks of ski season.
Nonetheless, Bullough argued the action is vital for the community’s health. Like in many other ski destinations in the Mountain West, the spread of the virus in Summit County has outpaced that of even neighboring areas with significantly larger populations. For instance, Salt Lake County, the largest county in Utah with a population topping 1 million, had 154 known cases as of Wednesday.
Officials are slated to review the order in 14 days. Bullough said they will consider modifications based on factors such as the number of cases and the community’s level of compliance.
The county also expects better data about COVID-19’s local spread to be available by then, which would help officials make decisions about the most effective ways to counter the virus.
“Our hope is that we have more stable testing about a week out from now and that we can then begin to gather more accurate, more indicative data that will suggest really what our rates are and what our growth rate of our spread is,” he said.
Violations of the order are class B misdemeanors, though Bullough said law enforcement agencies will be judicious about enforcing it.
“We use discretion in doing that,” he said. “Prosecutors use discretion in doing that. This is not random. We felt, though, that it was important to leave the ability for prosecution in the case of egregious and aggressive acts that are not in compliance or don’t meet the intent of this order.”
People who have questions about the order can call the Summit County Community Concerns Line at 435-333-0050.
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The Jordanelle Reservoir is at about 67% of its capacity, not the lowest its been but a level that officials say is concerning.