In the days after Moab began shutting down businesses and instructing residents to isolate themselves amid the COVID-19 pandemic, 549 Grand County residents filed for unemployment insurance benefits, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
With business in Grand County ground to a halt by public health measures designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, many workers have been left without tours to lead, equipment to rent, rooms to clean and the many other jobs that keep Moab’s tourism economy turning.
Moab Police said recently that an employee at a local hotel received death threats after a film crew, which had its hotel reservation threatened by a local order to keep hotels from checking in visitors, was permitted to stay.
The Moab Area Travel Council, headed by Executive Director Elaine Gizler, has taken the lead in the countywide effort to enforce the Southeast Utah Health Department’s March 17 health order to close all lodgings — including campgrounds, overnight rentals and hotels — to visitors. Residents may fill out a complaint form on the Do It Like a Local website.
A Grand County woman has contracted COVID-19, the Southeast Utah Health Department announced Friday evening. The individual is between the ages of 25 and 45. Medical privacy laws prohibit the disclosure of further identifying information about the patient.
A spokesperson for the Southeast Utah Group of the National Park Service said Friday that Arches and Canyonlands would be closed to all park visitors starting Saturday, March 28.
On Friday, Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert issued an order to Utah residents to “stay home, stay safe,” directing individuals to “limit travel only to essential travel,” to “stay at home as much as possible,” and to “work from home whenever possible,” among other restrictions.
San Juan County officials announced Friday, March 27 the first case of COVID-19 in a resident living in the county, the second case to affect a resident of the county. A San Juan resident living in the Salt Lake City area had previously tested positive.
The recent halt in economic activity in Moab has likely resulted in a drastic drop in sales compared to this time last year as well as significant numbers of layoffs. A recent order that hotels close to visitors has also driven the transient room tax to virtually zero, according to Grand County Council Administrator Chris Baird, leaving city and county coffers much drier than they had been before.
Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday, March 24, during a press conference about the state’s plan to respond to the economic fallout of COVID-19, that he saw “mixed messages” from rural Utah on whether the areas do or do not want tourism coming into town.
A plan released by Utah’s Economic Response Task Force Tuesday, March 25 outlines a path to recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that would maintain Utah in its current “urgent phase” of response — a period of “significant travel restrictions,” limitations on gatherings larger than 10 people, “significant K-12 school disruptions,” and other “urgent public health practices” — until between mid-May and early June.
Workers in Moab, a city largely dependent on visitation for economic activity, are hurting. In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Grand County, officials closed the city off to visitors last week when the local health department ordered lodgings, hotels, overnight rentals, campgrounds and others to stop accepting nonlocal visitors.