As we head into a holiday weekend and spring break for some, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced a new order related to travel into the state.
The order goes into effect Friday and requires anyone 18 and older to fill out a travel declaration when they enter the state, whether through the Salt Lake International Airport or on one of Utah’s major roadways. It’s intended to get information from people about any COVID-19 symptoms they may have, if anyone they know has tested positive for the virus and where they’ve traveled recently. Once the survey is submitted, the Utah Department of Health will analyze the information and follow up with the person, if necessary.
Carlos Braceras with the Utah Department of Transportation says the state has geofenced nine different entry points on Utah highways, including I-15 and I-80. Travelers, be they residents, workers or visitors, will receive a text message with a link to the survey. Braceras says UDOT will know who has taken the survey or not, because they know how many people are entering at those points.
“This will allow us the data to be able to manage those folks who are entering our state and to be able to control the virus,” Braceras said.
Similarly, those who arrive at the airport as their final destination will receive cards with codes to the survey. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called the order a crucial next step in slowing the spread of COVID-19, preceding another prevention measure she expects to happen soon.
“I understand that UDOT has submitted an order and is awaiting the receipt of no-touch temperature sensors, so that we could begin testing, or at least temperature checking, passengers who are arriving at the Salt Lake City International Airport,” Mendenhall said. “They have not arrived yet, and so we’re not yet able to do that.”
The state doesn’t intend to penalize travelers who don’t take the entry survey. Herbert issued his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive more than a week ago, which encourages people to reduce their trips to only essential travel, such as seeking medical care or buying groceries. But it doesn’t have the full force of an order, which counties across the state have issued, that includes a potential misdemeanor charge if violated.
Herbert says it’s dependent on Utahns to do their part.
“The directives we have in place, the common-sense orders that we have as far as directing people how they need to change their behavior – I know it’s hard,” Herbert said. “It’s not our nature, it’s something our habits have been to get together and socialize, and everybody needs to say, ‘I have a responsibility to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.’”
Herbert recently spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the physicians heading up the White House’s COVID-19 response. Herbert says Fauci praised Utah’s response so far and that he understands the regional approach the state is taking.