During what continues to be a banner week for American Sign Language interpreters, Gov. Gary Herbert delivered a speech on Friday announcing the enactment of a shelter-in … er, “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive.
“We’re in the throes of a challenging time,” Herbert said. “The coronavirus, COVID-19 as we call it, is a serious challenge that we face—unprecedented of any time in our history. It brings with it a lot of uncertainty, some fear, apprehension, high anxiety—not only about our own health and well-being as individuals—our family members, our friends—but also our economic well-being.”
He said the one-two punch ushers with it “fear about the future and what’s gonna happen.”
Herbert then went on to list a set of “effective immediately” recommendations regarding congregation, teleworking and even children’s play dates, that he recognized could border on “uncomfortable” and “disruptive.”
He said the suggestions would surely impact everyday life, down to his own. Every Sunday for the past 25 years, for example, he and first lady Jeanette have staged a large family dinner accompanied by their six children and 17 grandchildren. No more.
“I recognize … that all of us are facing different trials and challenges that require us to, in fact, sacrifice, to be more determined [and] work together to see if we can find a solution,” Herbert said. “To that end, we’ve put together the plan Utah Leads Together.” (You can read a one-page plan summary here and the full text here.)
The plan is “a process,” the governor said, and is divided in three phases. The first one, a phase of urgency; the second, stabilization; and the final one, recovery.
Saying we’re in the thick of the first phase, Herbert called on all citizens to cooperate, because “if we don’t get this right, the other two phases don’t really count much.”
Herbert called this first step, Stay Safe, Stay Home. “There's no better place for you to be safe than at your own home,” he said.
A day before the announcement, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall expressed their support for possible stay-at-home orders. Following the governor’s statement, Mendenhall said the plan was “the right thing for the people of Utah.” She also said she’d signed a local emergency proclamation giving Herbert’s declaration the force of law.
At the state plan’s core, is the recommendation that people stay at home “as much as possible,” Herbert noted. “This is something we expect all Utahns to do … there’s no exception to this.”
Herbert listed options, like working from home and limiting social interaction—needed to ensure “our sanity and our mental health”—to phone and video chats. He also emphasized the importance of social distancing and self-quarantine. He instructed not to visit nursing homes or engage in personal travel, and to leave home “only for emergencies and as infrequently as possible” through April 13.
Focusing on children, Herbert instructed parents to cancel playdates, reconsider school visits (even if it’s to pick up grab-and-go lunch) and to avoid public playgrounds. “That’s a place where we can have enhanced transmission of the coronavirus,” Herbert said of the latter. “So playground equipment and children playing there is a no-no.”
Recognizing the hit to the hospitality industry since he issued a suspension of dine-in services at restaurants on March 18, Herbert encouraged those who can to order delivery or curbside food from local establishments three times a week.
With spring in full swing, he also said those wanting to get some fresh air, exercise outdoors, bike or walk their dogs could do so, but should distance themselves at least six feet from others. Feeling stir-crazy? Consider a nice drive. “If you want to take a leisurely drive for your mental health and you’ve got a car and a gas tank full of gas, you can do that, but we’d ask you again to think in terms of what can you do at home first,” Herbert said.
The plan also specifies new rules for homeless services, commercial airports and state parks.
By his own admission, the order is more lax than similar ones in other states, hell, even ones in other parts of this state, like Summit County’s shelter-in-place order.
“We think it’s a little more understandable [than] the phrase ‘shelter in place,’ which sounds a little bit like a World War II effort—worrying about bombs coming,” Herbert said about the ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’ moniker. “We have enough fear about this without adding to it.”