Utah's tourism mecca faces uncertainty after travel advisory

    An aerial view of the area surrounding Moab, Utah.

    Moab, Utah (KINY) - While Juneau may be in for a tourist-free summer after cruise ships postponed their voyages, Utah's premiere tourist mecca is experiencing its own problems of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

    The small town of Moab, Utah was selected as No. 2 on Tripadvisor’s list of Top 25 Trending Destinations in the U.S. for 2020. In addition to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, the Colorado River and thousands of square miles of red rock landscapes, Moab has annual Jeep and bicycling enthusiast gatherings each spring and summer.

    That's about to change, however.

    According to the Moab Sun News, the Southeast Utah Health Department has issued a travel advisory to the area's tourists: go home and stay home until the thread of COVID-19/coronavirus is passed.

    In an order mandating hotels and restaurants to take drastic new measures, the SEUHD also included a travel advisory that describes the Moab area as "surrounded by virus activity."

    "Although we currently have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in SEUHD’s jurisdiction, [as of March 17] with cases continuing to be identified throughout the state (39 cases statewide as of Monday, March 16) as well as cases identified in Colorado and Wyoming, Carbon, Emery, and Grand Counties are surrounded by virus activity," the order reads.

    The advisory continues, urging "visitors that are not here on essential business return to their home and non-essential visitors planning to come to Carbon, Emery, and Grand counties reconsider their plans and remain near their home."

    According to the article, as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and local, state and federal officials struggle with strategy and message, local Moab residents have noted the seasonal influx of tourists and been alarmed by travelers ignoring advice from medical and health professionals urging everyone to practice social distancing, a public health term to describe staying in your own home and minimizing your exposure to public places where infection can spread.

    The Health Department statement follows a strongly worded letter from the Moab Regional Hospital staff directed at Utah Governor Gary Herbert on March 16, which said read, in part, "we are now concerned that tourism will drive the spread of [COVID-19]."

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