CITY LAKE CITY – Starting Friday, anyone 18 or ordering to travel to Utah via Salt Lake City International Airport or via a major Utah highway will be asked to fill out a travel statement form asking if they have been tested for COVID-19 and if they have just experienced symptoms, Governor Gary Herbert said on Wednesday.
“This is new – we have the technology that allows us to do this,” he said at a press conference at the Utah State Capitol. “This will allow us to help stop and slow the spread of the corona virus when we find people coming to our area who may, in fact, carry infections.”
The announcement came after Utah Department of Health announced 108 new cases of coronavirus in the state, increasing the overall total of Utah to 1,846 and prior to travel estimates for the Easter holiday weekend.
Those who fly to Salt Lake City or drive to the state through nine different state entry points will be asked if they tested COVID-19, especially if it was in the past 14 days and what the results of the test were if Utah was their last destination trip. They will also be asked if they are currently experiencing coronavirus symptoms and also detail their recent travel history.
Highway entry points include I-15 on the Arizona and Idaho border, I-70 on the Colorado border, I-80 on the Nevada and Wyoming border, I-84 on the Idaho border, US Highway 491 near Monticello and US Highway 89 near Kanab , according to Carlos Braceras, executive director for the Utah Department of Transportation.
Braceras explained that the department had been geofencing at the entry point of the road so that anyone traveling to the state would receive a text message from the federal wireless emergency warning system. The text will instruct them on how to fill out the declaration form once they pull over.
There will also be two exit points at Salt Lake City International Airport where employees will provide tourist cards with QR codes that will direct them to forms. The state health department will receive information and contact individuals if they believe that travelers must start 14-day self-isolation quarantine or be tested for the disease.
“This is truly an important next step for us as a state and certainly as a capital city to ensure that we implement as many appropriate actions as possible to slow the spread of this highly contagious virus,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said.
Herbert explained the state had asked for federal money to cover at least a portion of the costs to implement the system. The order will be carried out in an effort to gather information and officials will not start “chasing people” if they do not fill out the declaration, Braceras added.
However, Braceras pointed out that UDOT would know how many people came to the state from highways and airports so they could measure compliance.
“We believe that when people know it’s the right thing to do, they will do the right thing because it will help them and everyone around them,” he said.
Herbert said he also anticipated there might be some disruption in the first few days that the system existed, but added he was confident that the country would be able to work through any problems.
The program starts right before the Easter holidays and when better spring weather arrives in the state. That might mean an increase in travel. State officials still recommend that people only travel for important reasons and not go out in large groups.
“Warm weather brings people – they want to be outside. It is okay. We just don’t want you to gather in groups, “Herbert said.” We want people to stay in their area and remade there. … But we also want to make sure people only travel if it’s important – non-essential travel is prohibited . “
There may be new testing steps on the horizon to test those who are traveling to Utah.
Mendenhall said last week that the city sought state approval to test those who arrived at the airport for COVID-19. He pointed out that UDOT had submitted a request for a temperature sensor without touch that would be used to check the temperature of people coming to Salt Lake City International Airport.
“Such logistics and strategies, I think, are starting to show you how much we need to work in partnership,” he said. “Testing, even checking for symptoms, is not something that Salt Lake City International Airport can do alone, and therefore we greatly value the partnership we have and that has continued between the country and UDOT.”
The number of COVID-19 cases in Utah increased 108 from Tuesday, the Utah Department of Health reported on Wednesday. The department also reported no new deaths. There are now 1,846 confirmed cases in Utah, with 158 hospitalizations and 13 total deaths from this disease.
The new figures show a 6.2% increase in positive cases since Tuesday. Of the 36,116 people tested in Utah so far, 5.1% tested positive for COVID-19.
The total number of cases reported by the health department includes all COVID-19 cases since the Utah outbreak began, including those now infected, those who have recovered from the disease and those who have died.
“We are in a good place as a state,” Herbert said on Wednesday.
The Governor spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on the disease, earlier in the day and reported that Fauci gave the steps of Utah as a “thumb.”
“(Fauci) likes the fact that Utah climbed earlier,” the governor said. “If you think about when this first happened, we first heard about this coronavirus … we held our first meeting and organized a task force on March 2 and it helped us get a jump, a big start on what needed to be done. We were more early in closing our schools compared to other states; we close eating at home earlier than in other countries and take this very seriously. “
Meanwhile, Mendenhall added that he thought a smaller percentage increase – 4.4% on Monday, 3.8% on Tuesday and 6.2% on Wednesday – was a sign that Utah’s measures worked.
“We must continue to work together as a country to ensure that we all stay at home and stay safe,” he said. “Now is not the time for us to release gas. We must continue to move forward together and develop rapidly with new methods like we have today.”