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Scott G Winterton, KSL, File

Salt Lake City seeks approval to screen for COVID-19 at airport

By Carter Williams, | Posted - Apr. 3, 2020 at 5:31 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — There soon may be COVID-19 screenings at Salt Lake City International Airport. In a Twitter town hall Friday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said that the city is seeking state support on that measure.

The revelation came in response to a question she was asked about what the next measure could be in the city’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. There were 1,246 confirmed cases in Utah Friday, and 541 of those were in Salt Lake County, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Aside from airport screening, Mendenhall said the best thing residents can do is to keep staying inside and avoiding large groups.

"The county-wide order is important," she tweeted. "Follow it, and encourage your family and friends to do the same"

Mendenhall was among several other U.S. city mayors participating in question-and-answer town hall meetings on Twitter Friday. People were encouraged to use "#AskMayorMendenhall" to ask her questions about how Utah’s largest city is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Here were some other highlights from Friday’s online event:

— Responding to a question about why rural places in the state should also have shutdowns like Salt Lake City does, Mendenall said people should consider future infections and not just current infection numbers.

"That’s like saying I don’t need to pay my insurance because I feel great today," she responded. "Everything we do right now is to prevent a healthcare system breakdown when we are projected to hit a peak as a state."

"Our number one goal is for people to live," she added in another tweet. "To achieve that, we need the hospitals to stay functioning, and for everyone to work together."

— It’s OK to go on a hike around Salt Lake City’s foothill trails, but some of the recommendations have gotten stricter in recent days. Mendenhall said people should only go with people from their own household and keep trails clean. She responded with the city’s recommendations — which include don’t visit parks or trails if you’re sick or exhibiting any symptoms, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for personal hygiene before visiting outdoor locations, stay at least 6 feet from other visitors at all times, and warn others before you pass.

The city has also closed off all bathrooms and drinking fountains.

— When asked about what the plans are for businesses and event venues, Mendenhall said the city will use the "advice and guidance of expert epidemiologists and the availability of broad testing until a vaccine is ready."

Considering a vaccine isn’t expected to be widely available until at least 2021, that could be quite some time.

— While we’re in the world of a pandemic, Mendenhall says she’s seen plenty of uplifting things over the past few weeks, such as people playing songs on instruments on the lawns of elderly residents or leaving positive messages with sidewalk chalk. She’s also been impressed with people helping out the restaurant industry through the "Tip Your Server" campaign.

She also tweeted that she hopes people now (and when the pandemic is over), are proud of the community they live in.

"We are caring, creative, collaborative and willing to sacrifice for the safety of our neighbors," she tweeted. "There is no other city like #SLC."

Carter Williams

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