Summit County plans ban on dine-in service at restaurants in response to COVID-19

Summit County health officials are planning a ban on dine-in service at restaurants in response to COVID-19.
Jay Hamburger/Park Record
Resources for information about the coronavirus

People concerned about whether they have COVID-19 are advised to call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707. 

For information about symptoms of the coronavirus and how to protect yourself, click here.

Summit County is planning a ban on dine-in service at restaurants, county officials confirmed Sunday, limiting establishments to providing takeout and meal delivery in what would be the first mandatory order regulating private businesses the county government has implemented as it attempts to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

The drastic step follows an employee of a Main Street bar testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the first case in the state not attributable to travel or contact with another infected person and a development county health officials have said changes how they are approaching the outbreak. 

The regulations, which would also apply to bars and restaurants in hotels, would allow patrons to order food ahead of time and pick it up, but officials intend to ban diners from congregating in a restaurant to share a meal. Third-party meal delivery services such as Uber Eats and Grubhub, meanwhile, would not be allowed.

County officials were aiming to formally announce the restrictions by Sunday evening. Further specifics about the measures were not immediately available. 

The regulations were first publicized in a KPCW interview with County Manager Tom Fisher and Health Director Rich Bullough. 

The measures were planned as the situation surrounding the coronavirus in the county, already serious, grew more urgent early Saturday as officials detailed the first known case of community spread involving COVID-19 in the state. A doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill on Main Street tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said, prompting the establishment to close and to be professionally cleaned by a third-party company.

Officials said the man attended work while he was sick and interacted with approximately 20 coworkers. It is believed that patrons of the bar were not at high risk, though Bullough advised anyone who has visited the Spur since March 6 to monitor themselves for symptoms like cough, fever and shortness of breath.

The restaurant order would follow the closures announced Saturday of Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort, moves that exacerbated the mounting concern about the impact of the coronavirus on the Park City-area economy.  

Ginger Wicks, executive director of the Park City Area Restaurant Association, called the situation unprecedented, adding that several restaurants will likely close in the short-term. 

Among them are the eateries in the Bill White Restaurant Group, which include Grappa, Chimayo, Windy Ridge Cafe, Billy Blanco’s and others. The company announced the closures, effective after service Sunday, on its website. 

“We look forward to reopening and continuing to be the responsible and trusted food service providers our guests and visitors have trusted for over 25 years to bring a wonderful, comfortable and safe dining destination to the Park City community,” a statement posted on the website said. “We feel this is the most prudent and responsible reaction to the ever-changing world events. We are deeply grateful for your support and we wish everyone good health.”

Another popular establishment, High West Distillery, posted a sign on the window of its Park Avenue location notifying customers that it is closed until further notice. 

Wicks said many restaurant owners are primarily concerned with how they will pay employees in the coming weeks. 

“The spring income is very critical for the livelihood for all restaurants. To lose that income from people dining is going to be devastating,” she said, adding. “… Absolutely they’re scared. It’s the unknown.”

Wicks added that many restaurant owners understand the rationale for the planned county restrictions, even as the measures are likely to further slow business. The restrictions are aimed at delaying the spread of the coronavirus, which officials have said is critical to ensure the health care system does not become overwhelmed.  

“We’re trying collectively to be a united front,” Wicks said. “It’s unfortunate for everybody.”

Officials: Call if sick

Local, state and federal officials have been working to contain the spread of COVID-19, including advocating measures to prevent health systems from being overloaded.

One of the most important measures, local officials have said, is for people who have flu-like symptoms to call their health care provider before visiting a medical facility in person.

“We want to make sure that folks who are exhibiting systems aren’t just wandering up to an emergency room,” said Chris Crowley, Summit County’s emergency manager. “We want them to go through the process and arrive at an emergency room or clinic that is prepared to see them.”

Utah Coronavirus Numbers to Know

• Utah Information Line 800-456-7707
• U of U Health 801-213-2874
• Intermountain Health 844-50 1-6600

The person who had the first case of the virus in Summit County followed many correct procedures, officials said. He called a telemedicine arm of his health care provider, which allowed the clinic to prepare its staff to receive him. When he arrived, a clinician in protective gear collected a sample while he remained outside the clinic, effectively limiting exposure to others.

Health Director Rich Bullough said calling a health care provider rather than visiting lowers the risk of spreading the virus to other patients and, crucially, to the health care providers themselves.

We need to consider as a community, as a population of people, that one of our highest-risk populations are the caregivers. We cannot afford to have nurses and physicians out sick with this,” Bullough said. “Especially as the (number of cases of the virus in) community members increase, it is important that we take the actions individually to protect (health care providers). And so I think the process of not just showing up at a clinic is critical.”

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