SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday asked Utahns to stay home as much as possible, starting immediately. The voluntary, but highly encouraged directive will be in place through April 13.
“If we don’t get this (first urgent phase) right, the other two phases don’t really count much,” Herbert said, referring to Utah’s three-phase COVID-19 response plan, called Utah Leads Together.
“Certainly what will happen is they’ll be delayed,” he continued, “and if we do this first phase right, we can get this turned around in a matter of a few weeks as (opposed to) a matter of a few months.”
The governor’s announcement came shortly after health officials reported a second death. The woman from southwestern Utah was younger than 60 and had significant underlying health conditions before her Thursday death at a Salt Lake-area hospital, authorities said.
The state’s increase has been steady but not exponential, a sign that self-isolation measures are working, said state epidemiologist Angela Dunn. About 5% of people tested have been positive.
Herbert said he does not want to create more fear, which is why the state has called for citizens to “stay safe, stay home” rather than requiring citizens to “shelter in place,” as other states have done.
“This is kind of an opportunity for us to recommit to these common sense things and reemphasize what’s been said before,” Herbert said. “Again, this is the governor of Utah asking everybody to comply.”
Even as many Northern Utah school districts approach spring break next week, Herbert asked all Utahns to limit travel for anything other than essential tasks, like caring for a family member, getting medical care or going to work as an essential worker.
People who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, should self-quarantine, he said.
Employees should work from home whenever possible, and employers should enable this, he said.
Herbert encouraged phone and video chats and continued social distancing, including not shaking hands.
These social distancing behaviors shouldn’t apply only to strangers or peripheral contacts, but also includes family, he said.
Herbert asked Utahns not to visit friends and family. His own family will not be gathering for Sunday dinner, he said.
Parents should not arrange play dates for their children, the governor said, or allow children on public playgrounds. Schools remain closed until May 1, according to a decision made earlier this week to extend the “soft closure” of facilities.
“You can go to the park, but probably avoid the playgrounds,” Herbert said.
He encouraged Utahns to order takeout and engage in the “3T” challenge to order takeout three times a week to help support local restaurants.
“We know that the hardest hit probably of all of our sectors of our economy is the hospitality industry,” Herbert said.
At Salt Lake International Airport, only ticketed passengers will be allowed into public areas, he said. Only one person may accompany them. Others must remain in their cars.
Outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, hiking or biking are fine, he said, as long as people observe social distancing and don’t congregate in groups.
Leisure driving is OK, he said, but think first about what you can do at home.
Citizens should avoid amusement parks, pools, gyms and fitness centers, he said.
“Let me just emphasize this is something we expect all Utahns to do,” Herbert said. “It’s something that will only work if we all participate and do our part.”
State parks will only be available to residents of the county where the park is located, he said.
Northern Utah’s Antelope Island State Park is located in Davis County, so residents of Weber and Salt Lake counties would not be able to visit. Willard Bay State Park would only be open to residents of Box Elder County.
The question of whether or not national parks will remain open is being discussed by Utah leaders and the National Park Service, Herbert said.
Herbert also issued a document outlining details of the directive, available at coronavirus.utah.gov.