Nearly half of the employees of a Utah County business tested positive for COVID-19 after the business instructed employees to not follow quarantine guidelines and required staff who had tested positive to report to work, according to a written statement from county executives.

The statement, which was released Monday evening and was signed by Utah County Commissioners Tanner Ainge, Bill Lee and Nathan Ivie and the mayors of each city in the county, said that 48% of employees of the unnamed business tested positive for COVID-19.

Between this business and another in a different geographic region of the county that “did not follow COVID-19 best practices,” 68 employees tested positive for coronavirus, Utah County executives said.

“During the tracing contacts conducted by the Utah County Health Department and Utah Department of Health, we found these businesses instructed employees to not follow quarantine guidelines after exposure to a confirmed case at work and required employees with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis to still report to work,” the statement said. “This is completely unacceptable and resulted in a temporary full closure for one business along with heightened requirements for future cleaning and inspections.”

Carrie Bennett, chronic disease prevention program manager for the Utah County Health Department, said on Tuesday that the Health Department would not release the names of the businesses or information about the nature of the services they provide due to privacy concerns.

According to Bennett, contact tracing is a method of monitoring people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and identifying who they have been in contact with since contracting the virus. Through contact tracing, the Utah County Health Department was able to identify the two businesses.

County executives criticized these businesses and others that failed to follow guidelines for “putting employees, their families and ultimately the health of the community at risk,” adding that employers that don’t follow best practices also “jeopardize Utah County efforts to reopen businesses affected by the pandemic.”

The information about the noncompliant businesses was part of a larger announcement encouraging Utah County residents and business owners to follow best practice guidelines outlined by Gov. Gary Herbert and health officials as the state transitions from a high-risk red phase to a moderate-risk orange phase.

Those guidelines include continuing to stay home and telework as much as possible, wearing a cloth or mask in public settings, following strict hygiene standards and, for businesses, monitoring workforce symptoms.

“As we begin turning the dial to reopen the economy, we must strongly emphasize the importance of following these guidelines,” county executives said. “If we do not all work together to closely follow these guidelines, we could very easily slip back into a more restrictive state. We do not believe that anyone wants to move back to more restrictions on individuals and businesses.”

According to the statement, the majority of businesses in the county that have remained open during the pandemic have followed guidelines.

“Over the last several weeks we have found that most businesses ARE following best practice guidance, which is essential to protect the health of the public and help move Utah County toward the reduction and ultimately removal of restrictions,” the statement said. “We have many great examples of compliant businesses.”

A Utah County Health Department map breaking down the 1,171 positive COVID-19 cases in the county by region shows that, as of Tuesday, Provo and Orem had the most confirmed cases, 246 each. The next highest region was the Payon-Elk Ridge area, 102 cases, followed by the Springville-Mapleton area, 75 cases and west Utah County, 73 cases.

The fewest cases in the county were in the Alpine-Highland-Cedar Hills area, 29 cases, and American Fork, 34 cases.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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