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Rural Utah Health Departments Preparing For Coronavirus; Moab Area Concerned Over Tourists

PRICE, Utah — Health departments and medical services in rural Utah counties are preparing staff and resources in case of a large coronavirus outbreak.

In these rural communities, it’s never been called social distancing — that’s because being apart from each other is part of life.

Now, it’s almost an order because the novel coronavirus could spread to these communities, and county health departments may not have the hospital beds or equipment needed.

“We’re trying to be as prepared as possible,” said Jayden Brian, communications director for the Wayne Community Health Center.

At the Bicknell location, people are being stopped at the door by a staff member to have their temperature checked.

It’s a precaution since once of the symptoms of coronavirus is a fever.

“What we want to do is be able to attend to the patients outside of the clinic,” Brian said. “That way we can prevent that illness from being spread within the clinic.”

With fewer doctors and medical staff in rural areas, it’s important to keep them healthy.

Staff members are being rotated in and out of weeklong shifts at the Wayne Community Health Center to try and minimize disruption if the virus swept into the clinic.

“With our limited amount of providers, we want to keep them as healthy as we can,” Brian said.

In Green River, the medical center has a back door that leads right to an exam room for patients that need further testing.

However, if someone is suspected of having coronavirus, that patient is sent to a bigger hospital.

“We are screening patients in their vehicle, checking for symptoms, fever,” said Shannon Thurston, associate director of the Green River Medical Center. “Right now, we don’t have the COVID-19 testing. We do send them to Moab Regional Hospital or Castleview Hospital in Price if that’s necessary.”

Moab is an area being watched closely by the Southeast Utah Health Department.

With school out and many people not going into an office for work, it’s caused lots of people to arrive in the small town to getaway.

However, thousands of extra people could be a burden to the area if the coronavirus spreads.

“For us, the scary part is the potential to overwhelm our healthcare system in this rural area that’s not equipped to handle a surge of patients,” said Brady Bradford, director of the Southeast Utah Health Department based in Price.

On Tuesday, restaurants in Grand, Emery, and Carbon counties were asked to shut down and provide only takeout meals in order to try and force social distancing and prevent people from gathering in groups.

Later in the day, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered all restaurants in the state to suspend dine-in services for the next two weeks, beginning Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.

“There are elements that we don’t exactly know what we would do if we got overwhelmed, but we are preparing the best we can,” Bradford said. “Right now, the message in Utah is stay at home and limit your movement. However, we’re seeing the movement is coming to us.”


Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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