SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Gov. Gary Herbert asked Utahns in a press conference Friday to immediately begin staying home as much as possible, emphasizing the need to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Coronavirus is a serious challenge that we face,” he said. “It brings with it a lot of uncertainty, some fear, apprehension, high anxiety.”
Herbert acknowledged, “I recognize we’re asking you to do some things that are uncomfortable, that are disruptive,” but said the sacrifices would be worthwhile sooner rather than later if people follow directions now.
“If we do this, we’re gonna come out in good shape at the end of the next few week,” he said.
Herbert unveiled three phases of a plan to slow the spread and help boost the economy. Phase 1: Urgency; Phase 2: Stabilization; and, Phase 3: Recovery.
Utah is currently in phase 1, he said, and “if we don’t get this right, the other two phases won’t count much.”
The announcement came shortly after Herbert issued a directive asking people to stay home, practice social distancing of standing six feet apart if they must leave the house, follow strict hygiene standards, avoid contact with elderly or immunocompromised individuals and limit traveling to essential travel only. Both the Cache County and Logan City school districts have Spring Breaks beginning next week.
“If we do this, we’re gonna come out in good shape at the end of the next few weeks,” Herbert said. “All individuals should stay home as much as possible.”
The instructions are in place until April 13 and begin Monday for businesses.
Unlike the shelter-in-place orders issued in Summit County and several other states, Utah’s directive is not enforceable by law, but is a strong suggestion.
“There’s an expectation that all of us will follow these directives, and we need to do that,” he said. “All of us need to work together if we’re going to get through and survive, and in fact, not only survive but then be able to thrive in a few weeks.”
When asked why he didn’t follow states like California, Idaho and Colorado in issuing shelter-in-place orders, Herbert said he felt this approach was “more positive.”
“We think we have enough fear about this without adding to it,” he said, arguing that a “shelter-in-place” order sounded like a World War II effort.
State parks will remain open for the time being, Herbert said. However, parks are only open to those who live in the county where the park is located.
“This will help us control the spread of the virus,” he said. The state is still waiting on answers from the federal government to determine whether or not national parks will remain open.
Herbert emphasized he encourages employers to find ways to allow their employees to work from home and, if they cannot work from home, allow employees who say they’re sick to stay home as long as they’re ill.
The COVID-19 data at the time this article was originally published show Utah has 480 confirmed cases with two deaths. Seven of the 480 cases are in the Bear River Health District — which includes Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties. Of the Bear River Health cases, five are in Cache County and two are in Box Elder County. The latest case, announced Thursday in Cache County, is the district’s first case of “community spread.”