SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered statewide dine-in closures at restaurants, bars and other eateries Tuesday while health officials in the national parks hot spot of Moab halted new overnight tourists to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
The steps came as the number of statewide cases grew to more than 50. Herbert said he was “very sorry” for the disruption to business and jobs, but “convinced this will save many lives.” Restaurants can remain open for takeout, delivery and drive-thru.
The statewide order begins Wednesday, following similar steps in Salt Lake City, Park City and other places.
Meanwhile, the health officials in southeastern Utah issued an order barring anyone except work travelers and locals from overnight lodging, including camping. Those already in hotels before Tuesday night can stay through the duration of their reservation.
Though diagnosed cases of the virus are mostly in the population-heavy northern part of the state so far, many people are still heading south to outdoor spaces amid widespread closures and calls for people to stay out of crowds.
While recreating outdoors alone may be a good outlet, congregating in popular and crowded spots could spread the virus, and the small Moab Regional Hospital isn't equipped to treat large numbers of people if they become sick, officials said.
Authorities also closed restaurants, except for takeout, and other public places like theaters and gyms in Grand, Carbon and Emery Counties.
The order came a day after the local hospital staff pleaded with the governor to reduce tourist traffic in the city that's home to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
Meanwhile, Utah’s two largest hospital systems delayed elective surgeries and other non-urgent medical procedures Monday to save space and equipment for future coronavirus patients.
Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health expect an influx of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. Though most people have recovered at home so far, the path of the virus in other places like Italy indicates that Utah will experience a surge soon, authorities said Monday.
The move will keep hospital beds free and preserve protective equipment that’s in short supply around the country, and allow for more social distancing, hospital officials said.
The new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.