HURRICANE, Utah (ABC4 News) — The 160th Washington County Fair opened Wednesday evening despite the coronavirus pandemic. The four-day event, which includes a carnival and fireworks every night, a demolition derby, and a rodeo, kicked off with a parade hosted by Washington City the night before.
As hundreds lined the streets to watch the parade, the vast majority did not wear a mask or practice social distancing. County officials tell ABC4 News they’ve asked those who are sick to stay home but say that, ultimately, safety is a personal responsibility.
“We appreciate all those who came to the fair parade for a great time during this troublesome year. We love our citizens, and, as such, we don’t micromanage them. We want everyone to be healthy, safe, and expect that they will make decisions based on sound information and their personal situations,” Washington County Commissioner Chair Victor Iverson said.
Iverson said the staff, in partnership with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, have taken “every precaution possible to ensure that people are healthy and safe while still having an enjoyable time.” Event organizers say they’ve added additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers, designated senior hours, and one-way entrances and exits, but there is no mask requirement.
David Heaton, SWUPHD public information officer, acknowledged the health risks associated with the lack of social distancing and mask wearing seen at the parade; but, he added that the public health department “hasn’t seen any significant outbreaks tied to recent events with similar behavior.”
Washington County released a joint, non-binding proclamation from nearly 10 Washington County mayors and two county commissioners Wednesday afternoon, endorsing the use of face coverings and acknowledging that “experience has proven that hand washing and physical distancing alone are not enough.”
The proclamation, signed July 27, reads in part, “While many of those who become infected will not experience symptoms, many others will die or suffer severe complications requiring our local medical resources, including Dixie Regional Medical Center, to mobilize to care for all patients, retraining medical staff to work in areas unfamiliar to them, restricting the ability to provide important but non-urgent and elective surgical procedures, and severely limiting our ability as a community to care for other problems such as traumas, heart attacks, and strokes.”
“We, the mayors of cities and towns in Washington County, in collaboration with local physicians and the Washington County Commission proclaim our endorsement and encourage face coverings to be worn in all indoor public spaces and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained… We strongly recommend business in our County, Cities, and Towns support and encourage that face coverings be worn in their establishments,” the proclamation reads.
Earlier this week, Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director at Dixie Regional Medical Center, announced via a Facebook live interview with Intermountain Healthcare that his staff have seen another spike in hospitalizations on the general floor, with the ICU gradually filling up again.
Carroll acknowledged that the 5-county district saw exponential growth of cases continuing until the end of June, adding that hospital staff haven’t reached their goals yet.
“I think there’s ways that we can stand up for the things that we believe while still wearing masks, socially distancing, and taking precautions that can keep us and our loved ones safe,” Carroll said.
SWUPHD reported a total of 3,084 confirmed cases Wednesday, including:
- 35 new cases
- 2,405 total recovered (52 new)
- 15 currently hospitalized
- 25 deaths (1 new; a woman in Kane County between the ages of 65 and 84 who was hospitalized)
- 36,218 tested
- Washington County: 2,407 (24 new)
- Iron County: 544 (10 new)
- Kane County: 56
- Beaver County: 28 (1 new)
- Garfield County: 49
- Utah: 42,328 total cases, 327 deaths