SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert closed Zion National Park indefinitely amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The order came Friday afternoon during his daily press conference, as he expressed optimism for the way the state is pulling together to prevent the spread of the virus.
Gov. Herbert said the decision was made after consulting with Washington County officials and the US Department of the Interior.
“This is an example of where we have people that come into our state, in fact more than 50 percent of the people that go to Zion Park are not Utahans,” explained Gov. Herbert. “It is actually closer to 75 percent of people that are not Utahans that come into our national parks.”
Zion joins Arches and Canyonlands that were closed previously. State parks have also been ordered to only allow visitors who are local county residents. Officials are working to shut down boat ramps at Lake Powell.
Gov. Herbert reiterated that the next two weeks are critical for everyone to stay safe, stay home. He noted that with warming temperatures, this is when many want to get outside.
“Spring breaks, conference weekend, the temptations are for everybody to go outdoors and do something with friends,” he said. “I understand that urging but this is the time for us to really look and say that we may need to change our behavior, our social actions and interactions.”
The press conference occurred after the Utah Department of Health announced 1246 cases of COVID-19 within in the state, 15 cases are in Cache County and 10 cases in Box Elder County. Rich, Franklin and Bear Lake counties have yet to record a positive case.
Gov. Herbert continued to push back against issuing a stay at home order, explaining that his previous directive allows local health districts to tailor the ordinance for their counties. He’s also concerned about any further rules that could harm businesses more.
“It’s a balancing act,” explained the governor. “I think we’re balancing it pretty good. We give local control for the regional differences. I think we struck the right balance, but we will continue to monitor that. If people don’t comply we can take more aggressive steps if we think that is necessary.”
Officials with the state’s Coronavirus Task Force also explained that they are organizing quarantine and isolation sites along with alternate care stations if the need arises. The locations were not disclosed.
Utah state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said 24,248 tests have been reported and about 95 percent were negative. They are continuing to work toward the state goal of 7,000 tests a day. She advised anyone who is symptomatic or had close contact with a known positive case to be tested.
“So it is important right now,” stated Dunn. “What we know about the tests and what we know about COVID-19 is that somebody have symptoms before being tested. We can’t trust the tests if you don’t have symptoms. There is a very big false positive and false negative rate for the test if somebody doesn’t even have symptoms. So we recommend someone having symptoms before being tested.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that coronavirus symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. They include a fever, cough and shortness of breath.