In a statement to Utah Governor Gary Herbert on March 16, Moab Regional Hospital's top officials spoke clearly, urging the state to shut all "non-essential" Moab businesses down, including restaurants and lodging, in order to slow the spread of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic locally.
"We are already concerned about how we will meet the needs of our own community in an epidemic," reads the letter, "Additionally, we are now concerned that tourism will drive the spread of [COVID-19]."
"We wish that all business owners would make the responsible decision to suspend all non-essential business activities for two weeks, however, it is sometimes difficult to take action when the sky is still blue and the hurricane is still out at sea," the statement, signed by MRH Chief Executive Officer Jen Sadoff and top staff, reads, "We need our leaders to take swift, decisive, and drastic action now."
In an email with The Moab Sun News, Sadoff commented on how difficult taking a public stand on the mandatory closures of businesses is for the institution.
"While it deeply pains us to make such requests, the data makes it an imperative," Sadoff said.
"We believe the economy will come to a halt regardless of taking action now vs. later. We hope that by making the action now, it will flatten the curve and save lives, and hopefully lead to an economic recovery sooner. Our hearts are with all people around the globe faced with no-win decisions during this difficult time," she wrote.
In the hospital's letter to the Governor, MRH officials cite the quick spread of coronavirus infections in Italy, where hospitals were swamped with too many patients too quickly to properly care for.
"According to the Travel Council, anticipated lodging for next weekend is robust, estimated at being between 75%-90% of capacity," the letter cites, which would bring an estimated 5500 to 6000 visitors to the area.
"Although the desert around Moab is vast, the town itself is small...We are already concerned about how we will meet the needs of our own community in an epidemic," the letter reads.
In a separate statement, the Southeast Utah Health Department reminded residents that there are no confirmed case of COVID-19 in southeastern Utah.
"We are very supportive of the decisions the President made today and will be following his guidelines and recommendations," the SEUHD release reads, referring to a statement by President Trump. The press release goes on to remind community members to limit gatherings of more than 10, continue hand washing and hygiene practices and practice social distancing.
As of March 16, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus/COVID-19 in Grand County. Anyone with concerns or flu-like symptoms is instructed to call the Coronavirus Hotline at 435-719-3998.