Update 3/28: this article was updated to reflect a second confirmed case in San Juan County, a clarification to the public health order issued the following day, as well as a statement issued by Blanding Mayor Joe Lyman.
Update 3/30: this article was updated with further information from the San Juan Public Health Department.
San Juan County announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19, an adult male below the age of 65, in a statement on the morning of March 27.
That announcement was followed by a second confirmed case, a man under the age of 40, the following day.
That number jumped again, adding an additional two patients to the county’s total on March 29.
The San Juan Public Health Department announced “We continue to expect and prepare for additional cases of the new coronavirus in our community,” in a joint statement with the Utah Navajo Health System and the Navajo Department of Health.
Previously, a San Juan County resident was also quarantined in Salt Lake City with the illness.
The San Juan County Public Health Department also issued a public health order banning gatherings of more than ten people and prohibiting “leisure travel,” defined by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department as “travel into San Juan County for the purpose of vacationing or self-quarantining outside of your home county or state.”
Non-resident camping is now prohibited. Restrictions in the order also include banning dine-in restaurant services while allowing delivery or take-out services, discouraging visits to retirement homes and jails, and urging physical distancing and sanitary practices in businesses.
The order will remain in effect until at least April 20, when it will be reviewed and potentially extended.
The San Juan County town of Bluff is expected to issue greater restrictions on Saturday, including the closure of hotels, campgrounds and short-term rentals.
In the March 28 statement announcing the second confirmed case within the county, the San Juan Health Department said that efforts to trace the community spread of the disease related to both patients is “heavily focused in the southern half of the county.”
The Arizona and New Mexico portions of the Navajo Nation currently have 71 confirmed cases as of March 26. On March 20, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez issued a stay-at-home order for all of residents, with exceptions only for essential travel to grocery stores and medical services.
As of March 27, Utah has 480 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with two reported deaths according to the Utah Department of Health.
On March 17, former San Juan County Commissioner and current Utah State Representative Phil Lyman led a group of elected officials from rural counties who sent a letter to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert urging a “return to normalcy,” downplaying the severity of the pandemic.
In a Facebook post on March 24, Lyman commented “People, it’s ok. Viruses happen. They are contagious. You’re probably going to get it. And yes, you could die.”
Blanding Mayor Joe Lyman issued a statement on March 28, commenting that “There are competent medical professionals who are making recommendations to protect our health and wellness. The actions recommended have a cost in personal liberty and economic well being which could have long lasting and dramatic effects. These effects are much more difficult to estimate or measure. Decisions regarding the balance between these competing values are being made at levels of government and society far above our local authority or us individually.”
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This is a developing story and will be updated as more information comes in.