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KUER’s Southeast Utah Bureau is based in San Juan County. The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area. Both initiatives focus on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

Health Department Closes Hotels In Moab To Tourists For Next 30 Days

Photo of a road sign that welcomes visitors to moab
Kate Groetzinger
/
KUER
Last year, visitors spent roughly $130 million on overnight lodging in Moab, according to the transient room tax numbers for 2019.

Hotels in Moab will not admit new visitors for the next 30 days because of coronavirus, health officials announced Tuesday. 

The measure applies to all overnight lodging in Grand, Carbon and Emery counties. Overnight lodging includes RV parks, private campgrounds and private rentals, including Airbnb. 

Those who are currently staying in the counties may finish their stays. But no new visitors can check in after 10 p.m. Tuesday, unless they can prove they are working in the area. 

The Southeast Utah Health Department made the announcement in a press conference

“I feel like if we do not take action now, our residents will suffer,” said Bradon Bradford, the department’s director. “Our health care system will suffer. It’s not built to handle a wave of sickness.”

More than 5,000 hotel rooms in Moab were booked for this weekend, according to the Moab Area Travel Council. 

All public gathering places in Grand, Emery and Carbon counties are also required to close. This includes theaters and bars, Bradford said. Restaurants can continue offering take out service, but must close their dining rooms. 

Bradford told KUER he expects most businesses will comply with the order, but that those who don’t comply could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. He added that his department plans to work with businesses so they can stay open in some capacity. 

“We’ve gotten such a great response from many of our businesses already,” he said. “And they’ve come up with clever and safe ways to continue delivering their services.”

The move comes after the Moab Regional Hospital on Monday called on Gov. Gary Herbert to close all non-essential businesses in Moab. In a letter, hospital officials wrote that Moab Regional does not have the capacity to handle a coronavirus outbreak. The 17-bed hospital has no intensive care unit and only three ventilators, which are necessary to treat patients with severe respiratory symptoms due to coronavirus. 

“I think people should take this as a pandemic, not a vacation,” Dr. Dylan Cole, the hospital's chief medical officer, said. “The continued risk of asymptomatic individuals bringing the virus to one commmunity from another continues to be a big problem even with well intentioned travel.” 

He also emphasized that while people may be recreating outdoors in Moab, they are still likely to come into contact with residents and other visitors in town. 

In addition to the closures, the Southeast Utah Health Department has issued a travel advisory asking people to postpone trips to the area. Bradford said the health department is discussing temporary campsite closures with the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, as well. 

Arches National Park remains open, but all public buildings at the park have closed and guided tours are canceled. The only campground at Arches, Devil’s Garden, will not accept any new arrivals in March, and April reservations could be canceled.

Kate Groetzinger is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southeast Bureau in San Juan County. Follow Kate on Twitter @kgroetzi

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