Bringing a performance of “The Lamb of God” started as a labor of love, but has become another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After seeing the piece performed in another community, organizer Shanna Hawley decided it was something that she wanted Sevier County to see, and has spent the last year working to put together a performance.

However, it has been postponed indefinitely along with just about anything involving gatherings of people. 

Schools have been dismissed for at least two weeks, with students continuing studies from home. All high school sports have been postponed during that time. Churches have cancelled their Sunday services. Concerts, golf tournaments and even municipal meetings have seen cancellations. Event after event has been cancelled due to a World Health Organization recommendation that any gathering of 50 or more people be avoided.

That number in the United States was updated to 10 during a White House press conference Monday afternoon.

“My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking in bars, restaurants, and public food courts,” President Donald Trump said.

While many places that are usually full during the week are empty, parking lots at retailers are full as people are in a buying frenzy. Toilet paper is all but unavailable, thousands of gallons of bottled water have been purchased and bread shelves are empty.

According to the WHO, there are currently approximately 190,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Of those, some 7,600 have been fatal.

However, those numbers are constantly changing.

The contagion started in China, where more than 82,000 cases have been confirmed. 

The speed at which the virus is passed between people is the cause for much of the alarm.

Local community efforts to deal with the outbreak are underway. 

Emergency services — A meeting including representatives from every emergency response agency in Sevier County was hosted Sunday in Richfield as officials hammered out a united response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We want to get ahead of it,” said Richfield City Police Chief Trent Lloyd. He said the meeting was hosted so that all agencies would be on the same page when it comes to response.

“In the past when we have a medical call for a sick person, officers who are on scene first would go in and help,” Lloyd said. He said now that is being amended so a single EMT will enter the residence and prepare the patient for transport. It is a precautionary measure designed to prevent officers from having to be quarantined.

“We can’t afford to have people quarantined for 14 days,” Lloyd said. “We are all in the same boat.” He said in an effort to help protect the health of emergency responders, public safety dispatchers will now do more intensive screening of calls. 

“They will ask more about symptoms and pass that information along,” Lloyd said. 

The policy won’t affect other types of medical calls, Lloyd said.

Another precaution being taken is officers are now required to carry with them an extra uniform. After any suspected contact with someone who may have the virus, police officers are to go to Sevier County’s emergency medical services building where they can shower, change clothes and wash the exposed uniform.

Assessments of people taken to jail are also going to be completed in an effort to prevent any contamination of the jail. 

The changes will likely last through May. 

Central Utah Public Health Department — Officials have been spending long hours, fielding multiple phone calls and working to stay up-to-date on the latest developments of COVID-19.

Much of it comes down to rumor control.

“We do not have a case in the Six County region,” said Angie Knaphus, assistant public information officer for the CUPHD. 

Rumors of infections are spreading, but the most accurate and up-to-date information on local cases can be found online at coronavirus.utah.gov. 

“They are updating that as they find new cases, which is about one a day,” Knaphus said. 

One area of concern is restaurants, which remain open in Sevier County and the surrounding areas. However, in other areas they have been closed.

“You don’t need to close until we let you know, and we will let you know,” Knaphus said. She said the health department will call every establishment, or if there is question, any closure will be posted on the CUPHD Facebook page. 

“It’s wise to be prepared and have that as an option,” Knaphus said. As the coronavirus situation evolves, which it has been doing rapidly, the recommendations may change. 

Meanwhile, people can help prevent the spread by following basic hygiene and avoiding clusters of people. 

Healthcare — Sevier Valley Hospital has implemented new visitor restrictions to ensure the safety of the hospital’s patients, caregivers, and community. 

The following restrictions are effective immediately — 

• If you are sick, please do not visit or accompany a patient to the hospital.

• Do not enter the hospital facility except to seek care for yourself.

• Only two visitors or companions of a patient may visit at a time at the hospital. No visitors under the age of 18 are allowed at the hospital. Visitors (those who are not seeking care) at the clinics who are under the age 18 are strongly discouraged.

• There will be no hospital visitors allowed to patients who have confirmed or possibly have COVID-19.

• Please wash your hands or use alcohol sanitizer every time before and after leaving a patient room, exam room and the hospital facility.

• Speak with a nurse or receptionist about exceptions and special circumstances.

• Visitors or companions to someone who is sick and at the hospital will need to check in first. Greeters will ask you if you yourself have been sick. If you are sick and not seeking care for yourself, you will be asked to not enter the hospital. Talk to the greeter if there is a special circumstance to consider, and it will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

• If you are healthy and over the age of 18, the greeters will still require you put hand sanitizer on before entering.

• Please make arrangements for your young children to not accompany you to the hospital, either to visit someone or if you are sick yourself, while these restrictions are in place.

Visiting restrictions will be reevaluated once it’s determined that the level of risk has changed.

“We ask that everyone be calm, helpful and supportive of these important precautions at our hospitals. The reason we are taking these extra precautions is because it’s an effort to try and keep the number of people that could catch this strain of COVID-19 as low as possible,” said Brent Schmidt, SVH administrator. 

“Studies have clearly shown that one effective way to do this is to create social distancing, which means limiting the exposure to others as much as possible, which is why we are limiting visitors and trying to ensure limited exposure to sick people,” Schmidt said. “Another significant way is to ensure clean hands. It’s the reason why hand hygiene is so critical. 

 “COVID-19 can have a significant effect on those already sick or our elderly, just like the flu. And also like the flu, we are going to do what we can to help prevent its spread. We care very deeply about ensuring your safety, protection, health and wellness,” Schmidt said. “Please support these visitor restrictions and encourage those you know to do the same.”

 As a reminder, people are asked to please call ahead before coming into a hospital or clinic for care if symptoms of COVID-19— fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath; recent close contact with a COVID-19 patient, or travel to an area where it is active. The hospital’s main number is (435) 893-4100.

“Our area is currently a low risk area without any confirmed cases,” said Brenda Bartholomew, chief of nursing at Gunnison Valley Hospital. 

She said there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the virus, but the measures being taken will maintain south central Utah as low risk and minimize the spread of the disease should it arrive.

The most important thing our community should know is if someone has flu like symptoms do not come to the hospital or the clinic, Bartholomew said. 

“We want people to call their family practice doctor or call the main hospital number (435) 528-7246 and we’ll walk you through the appropriate steps to get tested and treated,” Bartholomew said. 

 Updated information about COVID-19 is available online at cdc.gov/coronavirus or coronavirus.utah.gov. 

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