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As Kane County eases COVID-19 restrictions, how do business owners feel?

(Credit: Mike DeBernardo, KSLTV file)

KANAB, Utah — Kane County is moving into what the state calls “the new normal,” as they transition to the lowest risk level for COVID-19 health guidelines.  Business owners say they’re hopeful more visitors will come, but they still have concerns about public safety.

Kanab is, of course, a tourist town hosting visitors from Zion National Park, Glen Canyon and Lake Powell to name only a few.  Less than five thousand people actually live in the city, but tourism officials estimate four million people visit in a typical year. And they bring with them $200 million in revenue for  Kane County.

They see an extremely wide spectrum of tourists from different economic levels … from backpackers who can live off the land to billionaires staying at the luxury Amangiri Resort.

All that essentially stopped when COVID-19 shut everything down.

“Once they closed the airport, it definitely went ‘ghost town mode,’” says Sego Kanab chef and owner, Shon Foster.

The silver lining in the dark COVID-19 cloud, according to Foster, is that since people didn’t have sports to watch or movies to see, many people paid closer attention to social media. He says that’s where Utahns saw just how badly the hospitality industry was hurting.

Foster says many Utahns came out to support their favorite restaurants.  Without the community and government support, Foster says his restaurant would not have survived.

What will change with “yellow to green”

Will the move from “yellow to green” really change things for business owners?  Foster says he and other restauranteurs are likely going to continue using the safety guidelines already in place.

“Maybe, the masks will come off in the kitchen if [the cooking staff] hasn’t traveled anywhere for the last 14 days, but, we’ve always worn gloves in the kitchen,” Foster said. 

“We’re going to continue to have our front of the house [employees] wear gloves just because I think it’s still safe practice.”

Tourism office instrumental in change

How was Kane County able to convince the state they should be able to move into another “new normal?”  Commissioners say the bulk of that effort was handled by Kane County Office of Tourism Executive Director Camille Johnson-Taylor.

She developed the “Above and Beyond Promise” campaign, showing locals and tourists what the county is doing to stop the spread of COVID-19.  She says the real trick will be convincing people it’s safe to visit Kane County.

“When I read ‘Utah Leads Together,’ one of the things mentioned …  is that it’s not only a crisis of this virus or the economy, it’s also a crisis of public confidence,” Johnson-Taylor said.

She says the county’s efforts to slow down the virus seemed to work extremely well.  They put handwashing stations and sanitizer towers along the streets and they were in constant contact with their local health board.

She says, “We’ve had four cases, the entire time.  No hospitalizations.  No deaths.”

Johnson-Taylor says it was especially important they have their risk-level reduced this weekend.  Starting Saturday, Kanab will host a week-long celebration in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary.

RELATED LINKS

Kane County is Utah’s first are to reach ‘green’ phase.  Here’s what that means

Friday numbers: Eight new COVID-19 deaths in Utah, tying high

Poll: Americans maintain virus precautions as states reopen


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirusis 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.
  • Keepchildren and those with compromised immune systemsaway 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

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState 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