The effect of quarantine on air quality in Utah 01

A lone motorist drives along Interstate 15 at Point of the Mountain in Lehi on Monday, April 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Anyone over the age of 18 who enters Utah through a highway or the Salt Lake City International Airport will soon be required to fill out a “Travel Declaration Form” stating whether they have tested positive or shown any symptoms for COVID-19, Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday during a press conference.

Herbert said he will issue an order this week, which will go into effect on Friday, aimed at preventing “nonessential travel” ahead of Easter Sunday.

“We have Easter weekend coming up,” Herbert said. “That’s a traditional time for people to vacation. It’s a traditional time for spring break for our young people.”

Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, or UDOT, said that drivers entering the state from a number of entry points, including Interstate 15 at the Arizona border, Interstate 80 at the Nevada border and Interstate 84 at the Idaho border, would receive an automated text message through the federal Wireless Emergency Alerts system asking them to visit http://entry.utah.gov and fill out the declaration form.

“At each of those entry points, we have geofenced an area so that cars that are entering the state will receive a text message,” Braceras said during the press conference.

The form asks whether those entering the state have been tested for COVID-19 in the last 14 days, whether they have showed symptoms like shortness of breath or a fever, whether they are a visitor or resident, and where they have traveled in the past two weeks. It also asks for basic personal information, including full name, address, phone number and email.

The declaration form states that the information gathered “will be used by the Utah Department of Health to help track and trace COVID-19 infections that may arise from persons who enter the state of Utah from national or international travel.”

Braceras said the state Health Department would contact those who tested positive or showed symptoms and ask them to self-quarantine or get tested.

“This will allow us (to have) the data to be able to manage those folks that are entering our state, and to be able to control the virus,” Braceras said.

When asked whether there would be a penalty for those who didn’t comply, Braceras said UDOT did not plan to “chase vehicles down that did not fill out the form.”

“We do not see this as an effort to penalize people,” he said. “We see this as an effort to inform and to gather data. And we’re convinced that when people know what the right thing is to do, they’re going to do the right thing. Because it’s going to help them and everybody else around them.”

Braceras added that if people entering the state didn’t voluntarily comply, “we could then take subsequent steps if we need to going forward. But I do not anticipate that being a problem.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said that even though the Salt Lake City International Airport is only seeing a fraction of the average 25,000 passengers it normally sees per day, “each and every person coming into the state is still an opportunity, a new opportunity, for the virus to spread, whether they are residents or visitors.”

“This is really a crucial next step for us as a state, and certainly as the capital city, to make sure that we’re implementing as many appropriate measures as we can to slow the spread of this highly contagious virus,” Mendenhall said.

According to Mendenhall, passengers who arrived in Utah as their final destination would be handed a card with a QR code they can scan to access the travel form. She added that the airport is also looking into using no-touch thermometers to check the temperatures of arriving passengers.

Braceras said there has not been enough traffic at other airports throughout the state to merit requiring travelers to fill out the travel form.

Also during Wednesday’s press conference, Herbert said he had spoken with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and that Fauci “gave a positive review of what we’re doing in Utah” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Specifically, Herbert said Fauci was impressed with how quickly Utah closed down its public schools, universities and in-house dining.

“So he liked the fact that we did not hesitate,” said Herbert. “We took very direct, decisive action early on. And (because of) that action, we see the benefits now, I think, in some of the numbers that are being reported.”

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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