SALT LAKE COUNTY – Following the state’s lead, Salt Lake County officials are also looking to get businesses running close to normal. However, county leaders say an economic reopening has to happen slowly to keep the spread of COVID-19 down.
Governor Gary Herbert has high hopes for when restrictions on business and travel can be, in his words, “relaxed.” He hopes that things like gyms, elective medical procedures and in-restaurant dining can be up and running by early May, as long as proper hygiene and social distancing can be maintained.
In a press conference Friday afternoon, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson stated she’s also hoping to loosen some restrictions by that time. Although, she is confident enough to loosen some, now. For instance, she’s now allowing people to walk into a restaurant to pick up their food orders, as long as they can keep distant from others.
“No seating inside and no outdoor seating,” she says.
Wilson says she was looking for four specific things before she would consider easing the county’s enforcement of the state’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive. She needed to see a decline in COVID-19 cases, hospital stabilization, testing capabilities for everyone with symptoms or who have been exposed, and contact tracing for everyone who has been exposed to coronavirus. Wilson says their data shows progress has happened on all four of those fronts.
She announced the county will be lifting the “Stay Home” portion of the order. People are now free to move around, but she insists everyone wear masks while they’re out and about. Also, for now, social gatherings are still off-limits.
“We know that kids are anxious to be with their friends. We know that we’re missing our family members, but it’s important, for now, that we maintain a limitation on those social gatherings,” Wilson says.
However, she says any kind of economic reopening can’t happen too quickly, or another spike in COVID-19 cases could happen. She borrowed an analogy from Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who said it has to be more like a dial and not an on-off switch. Wilson still wants companies to find ways to keep older employees at home.
“They are the most vulnerable, and those with underlying health conditions. We’d love to keep those people at home, working as best they can.”
Wilson also says they need to do a better job protecting vulnerable populations like jail inmates and residents of homeless resource centers, where they’ve seen problems containing the spread.
OUTBREAK AT THE MEN’S RESOURCE CENTER
After two men tested positive for coronavirus in the Men’s Resource Center in South Salt Lake, health workers tested the rest. Out of 205 men, 94, 46% of them tested positive. That’s high, but Epidemiology Bureau Manager Ilene Risk says that’s not completely unexpected.
“That’s very consistent with rates found in other congregant living settings,” she says.
According to Risk, this kind of viral spread is much more common where large groups of people live in, essentially, one big house. The center has stopped taking new guests, for now, and those that remain are getting health screenings twice a day.
Risk says, “They’ve taken so many steps to put in place physical distancing to the extent possible. There has been a lot of disinfecting, staggering meal times and temperature checks.”
Those who tested positive have been taken to a center where they can be monitored.
“We have a series of facilities throughout Salt Lake County and they’re set up specifically to isolate people,” she says.
Out of all infected residents, Risk says only six needed to be hospitalized, although none needed intensive care. As of Friday, four of them were still in the hospital.
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.
Resources for more information:
State of Utah: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707