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Utah governor issues 'Stay Safe, Stay Home' directive to slow the spread of COVID-19

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert issued a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" directive on Friday as the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Utah continues to grow.

It went into effect immediately and will remain in place until at least April 13. While it is not a shelter-in-place order, the governor instructed all individuals in the state to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing when in public in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus across the state.

"This is something we expect all Utahns to do," Herbert said from a podium at the Utah Capitol, as reporters listened from a teleconference call. "It’s something that will only work if we all participate and do our part. There is no exception to this. People say 'Well, it works for everybody else but not me.’ All of us are in this together. And if we do this, we’re going to come out of this, I think, in good shape over the next few weeks."

The directive, Herbert said, was crafted to find a balance between keeping Utahns healthy while also keeping Utah businesses open through the pandemic. The directive calls for:

  • All Utah residents to stay at home as much as possible and to work from home as much as possible.
  • All residents to use social distancing measures. That includes maintaining a 6-foot separation from other people if you have to be in public, not shaking hands, not visiting family or friends unless there is an urgent need and not attending any gathering with other people except with members of the same household.
  • People to use phone and video chats to socialize as much as possible.
  • People to self-quarantine for 14 days after traveling or being exposed to anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Parents to not arrange or have their child participate in any in-person playdates or similar activities. Parents are also being told not to allow children to play on public playground equipment.
  • Residents to limit travel to only essential travel, which is defined as traveling to a grocery store, gas station, office supply business and anything related to maintaining the safety and sanitation of vehicles. In addition, going to work at a place you can’t telework to, donating blood, finding care for pets, seeking emergency services, obtaining medications and prescriptions, engaging in outdoor activities, going to laundromats and dry cleaners, safely relocating someone at risk for domestic violence, providing care for a family member or friend, and transporting a child to an existing parenting time schedule or other visitation schedules fall under this condition.
  • Airports to remain in operation. Herbert said only ticketed passengers will be allowed to access public areas of Salt Lake City International Airport. If someone needs assistance, they will be given one additional person to accompany them. All other individuals picking up or dropping off a traveler must remain in their cars either curbside or at a parking garage at the airport. This procedure may be added to other airports in the state, as well.
  • Utah State Parks to remain open; however, only residents of the county the parks are located in will have access to them. The National Park Service will handle decisions regarding the national parks located in Utah. Arches and Canyonlands national parks announced they are closing Saturday. Herbert said outdoor activities like running, hiking, fishing and hunting are OK, adding that Utahns should give others at least 6 feet of distance while recreating outdoors and there shouldn’t be any congregations at trailheads.

The full list can be found online on the state’s website. The directive is also part of the state’s plan to move Utah out of an urgency response phase, Herbert explained. It was drafted to make it clear for residents and businesses what they can do to help stop the spread of the disease.

Not long after the state order went into place, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued a proclamation which ordered all city residents to remain at home, with the exception of essential travel as listed by the state. The city proclamation goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Mendenhall's proclamation gives Herbert's declaration "the force of law," she said in an online video. The document states that residents are being urged to voluntarily comply with the proclamation, but is pursuant to the city code and a person who violates can be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

"Nothing in this proclamation is intended to encourage or allow law enforcement to transgress individual constitutional rights," the document added. The full text can be found online at the city’s website.

Utah County Commissioners said they support the governor’s directive, adding in a statement “all of us should be doing what we can to help fight community spread of COVID-19.” Utah County is not issuing stricter enforcement at this time.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said she supports the directive but asked Herbert to take stricter steps if necessary.

“While I agree today’s actions are a step forward, I had some concerns that the governor and state leaders were willing to accommodate,” Wilson said. “Therefore, I asked the governor and state leaders to prioritize immediate negotiations with counties outside of Salt Lake County to develop a common framework — especially counties that have major hospitals.”

Earlier this week, a stay-at-home order was issued in Summit County.

Herbert said the state didn't want to issue a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order in an attempt to frame things more positively, likening the term “shelter-in-place” to a war-themed effort. In addition, he wanted to ensure that it could allow businesses to stay open as long as they meet the state’s criteria.

“We have enough fear about this without adding to it, so we just think this is a better way to phrase it,” he explained. “We’re trying to emphasize what you can do as opposed to you’re quarantined in your home for the next two weeks.”

The governor’s office will hold daily updates on the COVID-19 outbreak in Utah starting Monday. As of Friday, there were 480 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Utah, with 221 in Salt Lake County and 110 in Summit County. The state also reported its second fatal case of the disease Friday.

The state began ramping up testing efforts this week. The Utah Department of Health reports it has tested 9,244 people for the disease, although the number of tests performed is likely higher. Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist, points out that the individual testing data usually has a three-day lag. Even so, only about 5.2% of people tested have had positive results, which is lower than many states, Dunn said earlier this week.

“The data gives us hope that we’ve gotten ahead of this quicker than other states, but we can’t let up now,” Herbert said. “We have to keep pushing this and reinforcing what we’re already doing and, hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we’ll find out that our efforts are really working.”

Utah leaders still have the option to tighten COVID-19 measures in the near future. Officials have taken a data-driven approach to decision making, Herbert added.

He didn’t provide a specific statistic that would force additional measures; however, he said the data will show officials what is and isn’t working and that will drive policy.

“If it’s working, we’ll continue to do things until we get to stabilization. If it’s not working, we’ll have to reevaluate,” he said. “It’s like a football game at halftime. If we’ve won the first half, we would want to do maybe more of the same; if we lose at halftime, we may have to come up with a different game plan.”

State leaders will reassess the numbers in a week and more changes could be made if the situation worsens. That’s something that Herbert said he wants to avoid. He’s hopeful residents will follow the directive and Utah’s COVID-19 numbers will remain relatively low.

“There’s an expectation that all of us will follow all of these directives,” he said. “All of us need to work together if we’re going to get through this and survive; not only survive but be able to thrive in a few weeks.”

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Lauren Bennett is a reporter with who covers Utah’s religious community and the growing tech sector in the Beehive State.
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for


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