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Salt Lake County has issued its version of a stay-at-home order and it forcibly closes more businesses, such as barbers, salons and tattoo parlors. The move came the same day Utah’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 719 — up 117 from the previous day.
It’s the second day in a row with a jump of more than 100 as the virus continues to spread, according to new figures released Sunday by the Utah Department of Health. But even as the patients increased, the state’s death count remained at two.
“That’s good news in this, so far,” said Aislynn Tolman-Hill, spokeswoman for the Utah County Health Department. “But we have to just keep reiterating: Please stay at home as much as possible.”
Utah County saw its biggest spike yet, jumping from 31 cases to 51 on Sunday. Those numbers include at least two individuals at Brigham Young University. And Tolman-Hill said, overall, the counts represent some quick community spread and she believes the case count will continue to increase.
“It’s something we have been anticipating, though” she added.
“We remind the public that there are likely several times more cases than have been confirmed and that they should act not only as if they have been exposed to COVID-19, but also as if they are carrying the virus,” urged Derek Siddoway, the county’s spokesman.
Overall, there was a 19% increase in Utah, with the growth being a bit slower Sunday than it was Saturday. And the total number of people tested in the 24-hour period also rose from 11,312 to 13,993. Roughly 5% of the people tested have been confirmed to have the virus.
To slow the spread, Gov. Gary Herbert has asked all Utah residents to voluntarily stay home. On Friday, the governor urged people not to gather with anyone outside their household. And children, he said, should not be having play dates or going to public playgrounds.
Some “essential” travel is allowed, he added, such as caring for family members, friends and pets, seeking emergency services, obtaining medications and medical services, shopping for food or donating blood.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued her own order Friday, turning the governor’s recommendations into a mandate. City residents who fail to comply could be charged with a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
And Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson is also now considering provisions. There were 45 new cases in her county on Sunday after 58 new cases Saturday. There have been no deaths there, but that have been two in the state.
Currently, the one area of Utah left without any confirmed cases is the health district covering the central part of the state.
Southeast Utah reported its first case Sunday. And San Juan County now has four, up from one.
Kirk Benge, the health director for San Juan County, said those patients all live on the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation, and he believes they got it from family members living nearby in Arizona. The numbers are counted for the state, but also appear as part of the total for the Navajo Nation, too, which now has more than 90 cases.
He’s worried about spread in the rural area of the country where many lack electricity and some don’t have running water.
“That’s always a fear and that’s what we’re trying to work toward figuring out,” Benge said.
The director also pleaded that people stop visiting San Juan County to go rock climbing or see the national monument at Bears Ears. Already, he said, the area is circled by cases in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
“We’re surrounded on all sides,” he said. “We don’t have the hospital resources for this to be a refuge for people to come to at this point.”
The county has banned leisure travel, but it hasn’t stopped people from coming yet. Visitors also flooded Snow Canyon State Park this weekend, on the other side of the state, with crowds of more than 100 walking along the trails and stopped at the lookouts — despite the governor’s requests for residents not to recreate outside of the areas where they live.