All Moab hotels, lodgings ordered to close to nonlocal visitors

Gyms, theaters, pools, others ordered to close; all restaurants restricted to drive-through, pick-up, delivery

All Moab lodging businesses were ordered Tuesday, March 17 to only check in guests if they can prove they are employed in the counties of Grand, Carbon or Emery. All pools, gyms, theaters and certain other businesses were ordered to close. Photo by Carter Pape

Vacationers who were advised that visiting Moab may be a good bet for getting away amid the COVID-19 pandemic will have to rethink.

In an effort to protect Moab from visitors possibly carrying the coronavirus disease, the Southeast Utah Health Department ordered Tuesday, March 17 that all lodging businesses in Grand, Carbon and Emery counties not check in anybody unless the guests can prove they work in one of those counties or are directly related to such a person.

“As of now, guests checked in and those checking in before 10 p.m. today can stay for the duration of their reservation,” said Orion Rogers, the health department’s environmental health director. “Guests cannot extend their stay, and no new check-ins can occur after 10 p.m. tonight (Tuesday).”

The order, which was scheduled to go into effect Tuesday at 10 p.m. and to remain in effect for 30 days, is the most aggressive enforcement yet of the health department’s authority to close public places and prohibit gatherings of people “when necessary to protect the public health,” as granted by Utah law. Brady Bradford, the health director for the Southeastern Utah Health Department, said that he did not make the order “lightly.”

The order also dictates that restaurants in the three aforementioned counties must limit service to drive-through, pick-up and delivery. Museums, fitness centers, gyms, theaters, pools, bars, taverns, and certain other public facilities must close completely at 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

A major piece of the rationale for the order was to keep the local healthcare system from getting overstretched. Officials at Moab Regional Hospital, the sole provider for Grand County in terms of COVID-19 response, said they are not prepared for an outbreak of the viral disease in Moab.

“As a 17-bed critical access hospital, we have no ICU and minimal capability to care for critical respiratory patients,” said hospital leadership in a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday. “Additionally, we are now concerned that tourism will drive the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

The hospital sent the letter before Tuesday’s order that hotels and lodging businesses turn away nonresidents, which will likely have a stark impact on Moab’s visitation levels.