Southwest Utah commissioners push for green on basis of constitutional rights

Southern Utah News

ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) — Some public officials in southwestern Utah are continuing to fight for the entire region to move to the ‘green’ phase of Utah’s COVID-19 reopening plan after Gov. Gary Herbert approved only Kane County’s request last week.

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department, which oversees a 5-county district that includes Washington, Iron, Kane, Beaver, and Garfield counties, has reported an exponential rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director at Dixie Regional Medical Center, categorized the rise as a “surge event” last month.

SWUPHD reported 827 total confirmed cases on Monday, including 20 current hospitalizations and 2 new deaths. Two male COVID-19 patients, one over the age of 50 and the other over the age of 70, passed away on June 12, according to officials. 549 coronavirus cases are considered recovered.

The majority of the new cases have been coming from the most populated Washington and Iron counties. Kane and Garfield county have each reported four cases, while Beaver County has reported one — its first case since the outbreak began.

Over the weekend, SWUPHD reported a single-day high with 41 cases.

RELATED: Most parents oppose masks at schools in Washington County, survey shows

Washington County Commissioners Victor Iverson and Gil Almquist tell ABC4 News they believe the constitutional rights of the citizens they represent are being violated under current COVID-19 restrictions, adding that Herbert’s “personal beliefs” are a contributing factor.

“We’re citizens of the United States,” Iverson said. “We have constitutional rights. I believe it’s the governor’s responsibility to provide the community with accurate information; but, outside of that, leave it up to the citizens to make those decisions for themselves.”

The commissioners said they believe the virus is not being monitored the same as other public health issues and is “overly scrutinized and dissected,” stating that if the state “doesn’t get a grip on public health, the virus will ruin the economy.”

“We have people dying each week of the regular flu and we have people dying of smoking and second hand smoke,” Almquist said. “We’re not talking about that. It’s been talked about too much. It’s been overblown, and it has frankly ruined lives as much as it has attempted to save lives.”

RELATED: Commissioners in Southern Utah support Collin Raye concert on basis of ‘constitutional rights’

Iverson and Almquist tell ABC4 News they believe it’s “time to abandon” the phased color COVID-19 reopening guidelines and “go back to normal,” stating the role of the government is to provide citizens with the information they need to stay healthy.

“We need to go to green so that we can find out what our parameters are. If suddenly there are these giant outbreaks, I will be the first one to say, ‘Okay, let’s dial it back,'” Almquist added. “But we will never know that if we don’t go forward, and the statistics are just not proving that we are overwhelming the hospital.”

Dixie Regional Medical Center officials tell ABC4 News on Monday they do not report specific numbers of patients in their ICU and facility but said they were doing “fine with regard to hospital capacity both in our ICU and overall.”

Katie Karalis
Katie worked as a multimedia journalist in Reno, Nevada for KRNV News 4 and in Quincy, Illinois for WGEM-TV before making the move to Utah. Katie graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she anchored and reported for the Emmy-award-winning Northwestern News Network.

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