Update: These guidelines were replaced on March 17. > Read more here
Many Grand County businesses will have to limit their customers and gathering places after a declaration of a local state of emergency was announced along with an order from the Southeast Utah Health Department on March 16 to address the spread of COVID-19, a coronavirus spreading around the globe.
The order, cosigned by Bradon C. Bradford and Orion Rogers, head of the regional COVID-19 taskforce, orders that restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and theaters must limit the number of customers to 50% of fire code capacity, arrange customers in such a way as to maximize social distancing and achieve a distance of 6 feet between groups of customers.
Counter-service restaurants are restricted to provide take-out or drive-through service only. > See our updated list of regional closures, cancellations and policy changes here.
Under the order, live music events at bars are prohibited and hotel breakfasts are limited to single service items.
The health department order will remain in effect for two weeks. The order notes that guidance for public gatherings may become "more restrictive up to and including closure of all interior gathering places based on the progression of the disease through our community."
Some businesses have already made the decision to switch to only serving to-go meals, or even closing entirely.
Alex Borichevsky, owner/operator of Moab restaurants 98 Center and Sabaku Sushi, spoke to the Moab Sun News on March 16.
“We made a tough decision yesterday morning to shut our doors at Sabaku Sushi,” Borichevsky said, citing concerns about the health of both his staff and the public.
He said 98 Center would still offer food for carry-out and that, like many Moab restaurant owners, he has been in touch with the local health department – including attending an emergency meeting for restaurant owners called by the health department on March 15 – on how to manage health risks related to COVID-19.
“He (Environmental Health Director Orion Rogers) has the authority to shut us all down. He wants to work with us to decide what we can do to address this issue,” he said.
Borichevsky said that keeping 98 Center open allows him to keep staff employed and to feed some of the tourists, which he noted are positive things – though he also expressed unease with the influx of visitors and the possibility that this could lead to coronavirus cases in Moab.
Borichevsky said he has been reading about the effects of COVID-19 infections in other countries, including Italy, where it is widely reported that coronavirus cases have overwhelmed the healthcare system.
“I don’t want that to happen here,” he said.