Inside Utah's 'Stay Safe, Stay Home' Directive | Cover Story | Salt Lake City Weekly

April 01, 2020 News » Cover Story

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    Gov. Gary Herbert - ENRIQUE LIMÓN
    • Enrique Limón
    • Gov. Gary Herbert

    During what continued to be a banner week for American Sign Language interpreters, Gov. Gary Herbert delivered a speech on Friday, March 27, announcing the enactment of a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" directive.

    "We're in the throes of a challenging time," Herbert said. "The coronavirus, COVID-19 as we call it, is a serious challenge that we face—unprecedented of any time in our history. It brings with it a lot of uncertainty, some fear, apprehension, high anxiety—not only about our own health and well-being as individuals—our family members, our friends—but also our economic well-being."

    He said the one-two punch ushers with it "fear about the future and what's gonna happen."

    Notably, fear for small business owners and their employees as to how to navigate the temporarily new normal; parents who've become de facto home-school teachers; and anyone else trying to carry on with their life in the midst of a pandemic.

    Herbert went on to list a set of "effective immediately" recommendations regarding congregation, teleworking and even children's play dates, that he recognized could border on "uncomfortable" and "disruptive."

    He said the suggestions would surely impact everyday life, down to his own. Every Sunday for the past 25 years, for example, he and first lady Jeanette have staged a large family dinner accompanied by their six children and 17 grandchildren. No more.

    "I recognize ... that all of us are facing different trials and challenges that require us to, in fact, sacrifice, to be more determined [and] work together to see if we can find a solution," Herbert said. "To that end, we've put together the plan Utah Leads Together."

    The plan is "a process," the governor said, and is divided in three phases. The first one, a phase of urgency; the second, stabilization; and the final one, recovery.

    Saying we're in the thick of the first phase, Herbert called on all citizens to cooperate, because "if we don't get this right, the other two phases don't really count much."

    Herbert called this first step, Stay Safe, Stay Home. "There's no better place for you to be safe than at your own home," he said.

    The directive, perhaps a little too adherent to "The Utah Way," is miles away from stricter ones issued in 30 other states, including California and New York.

    • Enrique Limón

    A day before Herbert's announcement, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall expressed their support for possible stay-at-home orders. Following the governor's statement, Mendenhall said the plan was "the right thing for the people of Utah." Immediately following, she signed a local emergency proclamation giving Herbert's declaration the force of law.

    "This is the right thing for the people of Utah, because just like air quality, COVID-19 doesn't respect jurisdictional boundaries and it is a threat to our entire state right now," Mendenhall said.

    The mayor's proclamation sets parameters for prohibited activities at city parks, electronic city council meetings and the suspension of ticketing, booting and impounding of vehicles, among others.

    At the state plan's core, is the recommendation that people stay at home "as much as possible," Herbert noted. "This is something we expect all Utahns to do ... there's no exception to this."

    Herbert listed options, like working from home and limiting social interaction—needed to ensure "our sanity and our mental health"—to phone and video chats. He also emphasized the importance of social distancing and self-quarantine. He instructed not to visit nursing homes or engage in personal travel, and to leave home "only for emergencies and as infrequently as possible" through April 13.

    • Source: Salt Lake County Health Department

    Focusing on children, Herbert instructed parents to cancel playdates, reconsider school visits (even if it's to pick up grab-and-go lunch) and to avoid public playgrounds. "That's a place where we can have enhanced transmission of the coronavirus," Herbert said of the latter. "So playground equipment and children playing there is a no-no."

    Recognizing the hit to the hospitality industry since he issued a suspension of dine-in services at restaurants on March 18, Herbert encouraged those who can to order delivery or curbside food from local establishments three times a week.

    With spring in full swing, he also said those wanting to get some fresh air, exercise outdoors, bike or walk their dogs could do so, but should distance themselves at least six feet from others. Feeling stir-crazy? Consider a nice drive. "If you want to take a leisurely drive for your mental health and you've got a car and a gas tank full of gas, you can do that, but we'd ask you again to think in terms of what can you do at home first," Herbert said.

    The plan also specifies new rules for homeless services, commercial airports and state parks.

    By his own admission, the order is more lax than similar ones in other states, hell, even ones in other parts of this state, like Summit County's shelter-in-place order.

    "We think it's a little more understandable [than] the phrase 'shelter in place,' which sounds a little bit like a World War II effort—worrying about bombs coming," Herbert said about the 'Stay Safe, Stay Home' moniker. "We have enough fear about this without adding to it."

    For daily Stay Safe, Stay Home video briefings, head to Gov. Herbert's Facebook page.

    • Dreamstime

    Lessons Learned
    10 notable Utahns share their biggest takeaway from the past two weeks.

    A lot has changed in the lives of all Utahns over the past 14 days in the wake of COVID-19. Schools have temporarily closed, performance spaces have gone dark and neighborhood bars and restaurants—often thought to be the pulse of a community—have shuttered, leaving those who worked in them in an anxious state of limbo. Looking for solace and perhaps a word of wisdom, City Weekly reached out to a cross-section of notable Utahns with the same question: What's the biggest lesson you've learned over the past two weeks? Surprisingly, given the hecticness of the new normal, all 10 got back to us by press time. From displaced business owners learning to practice gratitude for the now, to Sen. Luz Escamilla, who recently shared her positive status and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who continues to be amazed by Salt Lakers' caring spirit, the group's answers were passionate, heartfelt and enlightening.

    Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City mayor

    "I've always known Salt Lake City to be a caring community, but I've learned many, many times over the last two weeks just how true that sentiment is. Salt Lakers care, they come together in hard times, and they are creative in their efforts to help through hardship. I couldn't be more proud of this city than I am right now."

    Jenny Wilson, Salt Lake County mayor
    "Our community is strong and people truly step up in a time of need. Having had two separate disasters declared in the past two weeks, I've realized the significance of having prepared in advance and having the resources available to allow Salt Lake County to be on the forefront of earthquake recovery and the response to COVID-19. We are connected as a community, one city, county and state, and together we can take this on."

    Luz Escamilla, Senate Minority Whip
    "Facing uncertainty individually with your healthcare situation but then facing uncertainty as a family and then as a community ... I've learned the power of prayer, for sure, and the idea that people care—the outpour of love and support has been incredible. We've been, as a family, dealing with this in our own home, there's seven of us—my mom, my husband, myself and then two teenagers and two toddlers—and it's been this rollercoaster of symptoms and testing for more than two weeks. The kids have been on lockdown for three weeks already, and through this process I've learned how strong we are as a community, as humans, but also how scary it can be. The uncertainty is the worst feeling."

    Shireen Ghorbani, Salt Lake County Councilwoman
    "I'm learning the limits of both leadership and personal responsibility. Both are being stretched and tested at this time. The grace, bravery and kindness of so many Utahns is also on full display. Your life and your parents' and grandparents' are not disposable to me. Your small business and your rent payment are important to me. How we decide to care for and show up for each other is reflective of how we care for ourselves. The social safety net was already thin for too many in our community, and I hope this virus will focus more of our state leadership on that reality."

    Rob Moolman, Utah Pride Center executive director
    "I have seen the resilience of individuals that has inspired me. I have been amazed at the creativity of my team in the ways in which they adapted and even improved our Utah Pride Center's resources and programs. I have been constantly reflecting on how interconnected our world is, and how much we yearn for that connection. We are seeing people reach out to each other in the absence of touch and presence, some are managing to make that connection, but many are being left out. I both fear for our communities that are alone and marginalized, while also marvelling at ways in which communities and strangers are managing to come together."

    Lex Scott, Black Lives Matter organizer
    "In the past two weeks, I have seen the best of humanity, and the worst of humanity. I have seen the definition of 'essential' change. I have seen companies profit from a crisis and families lose everything. In the past two weeks, I have seen the entire world change in every way possible. Also I have seen the privileged become uncomfortable and become aware of situations that have always existed. It is a privilege to not have noticed a broken system. It seems like the cries of help from marginalized people have been amplified, yet are only heard now because of the discomfort of the privileged."

    Shandra Benito, COVID-19 Mutual Aid SLC page manager
    "The biggest lesson I've learned is perhaps one I already knew, which is that we are not independent. We as people are interdependent with one another; those of us with disabilities have always known that. Because of that, the community of people with disabilities has been able to step up and mobilize, not just to support one another, but also our broader community. We must realize that we all depend on one another, and we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our community, and all of our neighbors, have their basic needs and rights met."

    Moudi Sbeity, Laziz Kitchen owner
    "Practicing gratitude for the present moment by letting go of the fear of the future and the memory of yesterday. There is so much we can accomplish within ourselves and for people around us if we take notice of what we can do now."

    Bridget Gordon, The Green Pig Pub owner
    "This is what I've learned in the last couple of weeks: Not to take things for granted—life, love and business—[all while] learning to live in a difficult time."

    Ben Winslow, FOX 13 reporter
    "The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, including how we even report on it (for example, you're getting a good look inside your local news anchor's house and their taste in décor as we try to stay home and exercise social distancing). Local news is more necessary than ever to inform people about what's happening in our communities with information and facts. As people become increasingly stressed and afraid, I've noticed the tendency for people to lash out at each other, online and in-person. I'm learning that we all need to take a breath, practice some humanity and kindness, and remember that we're all in this together. Oh, and stay home and wash your hands."

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