Every day the mayors of Provo, Orem and Vineyard field requests from the public to either establish a tougher stay-at-home order, or conversely, to ease off some of the current restrictions. Their job is to do what is best for their community.
Sometimes doing what’s best is a balancing act. Just ask Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, who issued a letter to the Provo Municipal Council this week on why she is handling the COVID-19 issue the way she is.
Kaufusi said the current situation in Provo is good, that for the most part people are following Gov. Gary Herbert’s request to stay safe and stay home. That said, Kaufusi has had to respond to some city leaders wishing she would do more.
Some Council members have been encouraging the mayor to issue a stay-at-home order like Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have in place.
“I have not ruled out a stay-at-home order in the future. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, much less what next month holds,” Kaufusi said in her letter to the Provo Municipal Council. “I understand a stay-at-home order to be an order criminalizing failure to comply with health-related directives,” she said.
Kaufusi said she doesn’t want to arrest a mom with children playing on a playground not wearing masks or failing to follow social distancing guidelines.
Several mayors have met on the issues and Kaufusi said the overwhelming consensus has seemed to be against an order.
“Police Chief Rich Ferguson has been steadfast in urging me not to issue an order,” Kaufusi said. “He says we don’t need it. His officers are seeing compliance.”
Nevertheless, if residents don’t comply with the current plan Kaufusi said she would have to look at stronger stay at home measures.
To show a sign of solidarity between the administrative and legislative branches of Provo’s government, Kaufusi and the council made a joint video, now on YouTube, asking residents to stay put unless it was absolutely necessary to go out.
Orem Mayor Richard Brunst agrees with Kaufusi and said for the most part residents of Orem are following the governor’s program.
“I get emails daily telling me we should call for a full shelter-in-place of the city,” Brunst said. “I also get emails daily thanking us for not shutting down. I understand both viewpoints.”
Brunst added, “We have chosen to follow the governor’s direction which has been extended to May 1. We are following ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home.’ Only go out if absolutely necessary unless your work deems it necessary.”
When residents don’t abide by these conditions, the city has taken action. For instance, playgrounds at public parks have been closed with caution tape.
“We asked the Alpine School District to do the same thing,” Brunst said. “Our pickleball enthusiasts were going around the signs, so we had to take down all the nets.”
Brunst noted there have been some residents that have turned in complaints about large groups congregating in parts of the city.
“We admonish everyone to follow the directions to social distance at 6 feet and to wear masks outside,” Brunst said.
Brunst was happy to acknowledge that the Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem has a testing site for COVID-19 and that anyone can go and be tested.
“I do believe we are flattening the curve in Orem,” Brunst said. “We do know there are some in Orem that have tested positive for coronavirus.”
Brunst said Orem is also following the direction of the Utah County Health Department.
Brunst added. “We are working hard to stem the tide on this.”
People have been focused on what they can do, and they want to know they are safe, said Mayor Julie Fullmer. She added that some of the information going around is causing a lot of fear and pain and panic, but as a whole the community is uniting.
“Two days ago I received the first call asking that I put in a separate stay-at-home order, just for Vineyard,” she said. “Any call I receive about the concerns people have about other’s interpretations of social distancing, I take seriously.”
She said she helped the caller to know what they can do to stay safe.
“I reach out to the community groups, and I ask them what they see as solutions within their own communities,” Fullmer said. “They know the needs of their families and their neighbors.”
Fullmer has organized a work task force group. “We’ve come up with a plan to move forward,” she said.
“It starts in the homes of the people in Vineyard. People are collaborative and kind and doing their best,” Fullmer said. “I try to stay as connected as possible to my residents, and most of them have my cell number or know where to get it.”
Fullmer shared an example to show what residents can do.
“William Shake, a resident in Vineyard, started a walk and pick-up-trash call to action in the community. It’s little, but within the city budget, it’s actually big, and if the economy keeps moving in the direction it’s going, levels of services will change. Our city, the people of Vineyard, continue to unite,” Fullmer said.
Fullmer said when the pandemic began she immediately put in a state of emergency in preparation for what might come.
“We contacted every business and consulted with them on how they could transition their business models into pick-up and delivery before they were required to shut down their dining areas,” she said. “I instituted a deregulation plan with my Council and staff, and we made it as easy as possible for our businesses to operate and get people in their doors.”
As a city Fullmer transitioned city employees to a remote social distancing model early, so if something did happen they would be ready.
“We closed the equipment down that doesn’t allow our employees to practice social distancing and proper maintenance, and encourage people to recreate in areas where social distancing is easier,” she said. “Our officers continue to protect the city. Our essential services continue without disruption.”
Fullmer noted, “Our parks are open, our trails are open, our courts and basketball courts are open. We do everything we can to support our public health systems, follow the directives, and as well as provide a stable environment for the people of our city.”