Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued a stay at home order Friday evening, with exceptions for essential travel like grocery shopping, seeking medical care, and outdoor recreation.
It goes into effect Friday just before midnight and is aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus. The order will last as long as there is a declared state of emergency in Salt Lake City.
“This is about saving people's lives,” Mendenhall said. “The way that we act right now and the way that we restrict the opportunity of this virus to transmit further into the population is going to set the trajectory not only for how many deaths we incur as a state of Utah, but how long our economic impact is negatively affected. And we want both of those to be as small and short as possible.”
There are 221 confirmed resident and visitor cases of COVID-19 in Salt Lake County, 480 in the entire state, and two deaths related to the disease.
Mendenhall’s order came after Gov. Gary Herbert issued a Stay Safe, Stay Home directive, which uses the same definition of essential travel as the city’s, but does not have an enforcement mechanism like Mendenhall’s proclamation.
Violating the city’s order can result in a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail.
However, Mendenhall said law enforcement will be focused on giving residents warnings, not tickets.
“Now if there are egregious violations we do have the authority to take the actions that are empowered to us through the proclamation, but that is not our intention at all,” Mendenhall said. “I think people want to do what’s right. They want to be safe.”
She added that the city was working on defining what “egregious” violations would include.
Mendenhall and other Democratic politicians have called for a statewide stay at home order, but Herbert said he opted to give a directive instead, reinforcing and emphasizing the importance of current social distancing recommendations.
“We think it’s a little more understandable,” Herbert said. “We have enough fear about this without adding to it so we just think this is a better way to phrase it.”
Herbert’s directive went into effect immediately and will last through April 13, and he left open the possibility of issuing more stringent restrictions down the line.
“The data, the science, the medical advice, the best we can find is what's going to drive policy,” Herbert said. “This is not something we were just taking out of thin air …We'll see in a week from now what has changed and in the direction that the data will take us.”
Mendenhall declined to comment on whether she thought Herbert should have issued harsher social distancing orders Friday.
Mendenhall and Herbert’s directives also place restrictions on the Salt Lake City International Airport, where dozens of families gathered Sunday night to pick up returning Latter-day Saint missionaries, despite state-wide limits of gatherings to 10 people.
Under the directives, only people with a ticket, and one companion per ticket holder, are allowed in the airport, and everyone else must remain in their vehicles.
Across the state, residents will only be able to access state parks in the counties where they live.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson