SALT LAKE CITY — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim lives in Utah and across the globe, a police department in southern Utah says it has been having trouble keeping a man quarantined.
Police in Hurricane, Washington County, say a man who has been in “close contact” with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 — and had been directed to self-quarantine — was seen by police roaming the community on Thursday.
Hurricane Police Chief Lynn Excell told the Hurricane City Council during a meeting Thursday night that the man has been disobeying health department quarantine orders, and could be charged if he continues to defy those orders, according to police spokesman Ken Thompson.
“We will refer him to the prosecutor’s office for charges if he is seen out in the community,” Thompson told the Deseret News Friday.
He said Hurricane police are taking the pandemic seriously to protect the health of the community — and so should all residents.
“This is a dangerous virus,” Thompson said. “It’s killing people. And we need to stop it. The only way to do that is social distancing.”
Under Gov. Gary Herbert’s order issued Wednesday, Utahns who test positive for COVID-19, or who are a member of the same household as an individual who tests positive, are required to comply with self-isolation or quarantine notices. Violation of a public health order is a violation of state law. The penalty for first offenses is a class B misdemeanor, and a subsequent offense is a class A misdemeanor.
Excell told the council during its Thursday meeting that the man was seen just hours prior near Hurricane Equipment Rentals, a heavy equipment rental store at 715 W. State, according to Thompson. The store is on the same block as the Hurricane Police Department.
“Within probably the last three hours, they were right here in front of our building at the rental equipment store,” Excell said, according to St. George News.
After Herbert’s order was issued, the chief told the council he sent a copy of the order to the man “we’re having an intense problem with.”
Friday, Thompson in a news release said the chief contacted the man by phone that morning “to ensure compliance of the order.”
“During the course of the conversation, the subject was told of the importance of following these guidelines for the protection of our entire community,” Thompson wrote in the statement. “The conversation between Chief Excell and this subject was positive, and the subject stated he will comply with these protective measures.”
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department — which includes Washington, Iron, Kane, Beaver and Garfield counties — reported on Friday 33 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, including seven hospitalizations and one death. Of those cases, 21 were reported from Washington County.
Statewide, Utah had 1,247 confirmed cases as of Friday, including 106 hospitalizations and seven deaths, according to state health officials.
Thompson said the Hurricane Police Department “fully supports” Herbert’s “stay home, stay safe” directive and encourages everyone to follow social distancing guidelines, which urge Utahns to stay in their homes as much as possible.
“These orders are in place for the safety of the entire community, and it is important they be closely followed,” Thompson said. “It is important that we work together as a community and follow the guidelines, directives and orders to slow the spread of this dangerous virus.”