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0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02e0000KPCW's COVID-19 news coverage for Summit County and Wasatch County, Utah. 0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02f0000You can also visit the Utah Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization websites for additional information.

Amid COVID-19 Crackdown, Summit County Sheriff Would Rather Inform Than Punish

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez

The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus meant that on Sunday, March 15th, Park City’s bars, restaurants and other gathering places got a shutdown order that was unprecedented in their history.

The job of enforcing the order falls to Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez.   But the Sheriff said what he’s been doing is education, not punishing violators.

The Public Health Order from the county shut down indoor restaurant dining, although they will be allowed to sell carry-out food, under restrictions designed to curb any possible spread of the coronavirus.

Sheriff Martinez said that virtually all food establishments are complying with the Order.    But some restaurateurs are trying to figure out how to work around the law and still operate their business.     

“We had a business here in Summit County where they had shut the doors, they were compliant.  And people were calling in.  But as people were waiting outside the door  to get their meals, they were congregating.   They were gathering.    And all it was, was an educational piece to say hey, when your customers call in for a meal, have them wait in their car.  Don’t have them gather right outside the front door.   And so all they’re trying to do is find a work-around, survive, and do the best they can.  This isn’t a perfect process.   We’ve never done curbside pickup before.   And so they’re adapting.”

The Sheriff said they haven’t issued any citations, and the Park City Police haven’t either.    Legally, violators could be cited, or the County Health Department could shut them down and impose a fine.

But he said what they’re doing is educating businesses—for instance, convenience stores that can become pseudo-restaurants.         

“A lot of people don’t understand the Order in its entirety.   Let me give you an example.   Gas stations that have, within the gas station, a Subway.  Or they have the rolling hot dogs.   Or they have coffee stations.  Well, those areas are actually considered not allowed.    Somebody goes and grabs a pot of coffee, they pour their coffee, they put the coffee pot back.   The next person comes and grabs that handle.  We’re trying to avoid self-serve.”

Sheriff Martinez said his officers are patrolling business districts that have gone dark and keeping an eye out in the grocery stores.    He said generally he’s pleased how county residents have behaved, after being suddenly hit by a global pandemic.        

“Summit County is gotta be one of the best places to live.  I’ve been so impressed with the grocery stores.   There’s been a little bit of tension.  But the citizens here in Summit County, in my opinion Randy--and I’m not blowing sunshine—are a beacon for the rest of the state and the nation to follow in how we treat our people.”

He urged residents to maintain civility and be supportive of one another.      

“Don’t be selfish.   Don’t be rude at the grocery stores.  Take only what you need.    This is not a situation where there is a martial law and you’re on lockdown and you can never leave your house.   But people are taking, in my opinion, a little bit more than what they need.  They need to slow down and allow for other people to get their meals, to get their food at the grocery stores.  The beautiful thing about Summit County is we’ve got great places we can go out and walk, take our dogs.  People are gonna be out at trailheads.  Trailheads are gonna get overcrowded, overwhelmed.   But I’d rather people be out and doing things, than being grumpy with each other.”

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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