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Live Mic: Rural Utah residents ask big city folks to stay put

A sunset over Moab and the La Sal Mountains on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Julia Phillips-Horsley/ iWitness)

SALT LAKE CITY — Are you ready to pack up the car and the dog and get out of the city and head to a quiet little burg in rural Utah to escape the coronavirus madness?

Not such a great idea.

If you’re thinking about disappearing out into the wide open spaces, you’re not alone. So was the host of Live Mic, Lee Lonsberry — at least he was until he wised up.

“I talked to my wife, and I said, ‘Hey, you want to maybe see about renting a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and I’ll hook up to the internet and be a talk-show host in the middle of the woods until this thing blows over,” Lee said.

Again, not such a great idea.

Be safe at home, please – not in rural Utah

Cameron Diehl, executive director Utah League of Cities and Towns, joined Lee to tell him (not only to stay home) but just how rural parts of the state could be hit hard by the coronavirus if people from urban areas decide to ride out the pandemic in rural towns.

“Why is it best that we not overburden the capacity of the hospitals and the grocery stores out there?” Lee asked his guest.

“The city of Moab has about 6,000 full-time residents, has a couple of small grocery stores, has a regional hospital that services the entire southeast Utah region,” Diehl said. “They have 17 hospital beds that service those three counties.

“Well, the city of Moab, on an average year, sees upwards of five million visitors come through town,” Diehl said.

“If you were to have the onrush of people internationally, nationally and even from the Wasatch Front going down [to the region] and an outbreak were to take place,” he said.

“Imagine the consequences for a small hospital if they didn’t have the capacity with ICU beds and ventilators and other necessary infrastructure to accommodate that, both for the locals and for the visitors,” Diehl said.

“So, really, the biggest thing that we can do in the urban areas is just to be conscientious of our friends and neighbors in rural Utah, so that we don’t inadvertently cause spread or cause a problem there,” he said.

The message from the rural areas to the urban cities is: Stay home, stay safe and come visit your favorite rural places when the coronavirus is behind all of us, Diehl said.

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States