[photo by Maggie McGuire/Moab Sun News]

After an informal letter caused confusion among residents, the Southeast Utah Health Department issued a clarification: Moab and southeastern Utah aren’t opening back up anytime soon. 

The letter, issued on April 10, contained hypothetical plans for reopening businesses including restaurants and overnight lodging.

> Read about the April 10 letter from the Southeast Utah Health Department

Although the letter specified that the plans were only speculation, many in Moab were alarmed that the health department was signalling a reduction in social distancing measures to protect the area from the coronavirus. 

Residents expressed a variety of opinions on the SEUHD Facebook page, from those voicing the belief that any lessening of social distancing would be “too soon” to those believing that the current closures have gone “too far.”

After the release of the informal letter, the Moab Sun News had asked whether the department was concerned these theoretical plans could cause confusion. A public information officer from the health department said that the letter was written especially for overnight lodging owners anxious to know if they could begin booking rooms for tourists.

“At this time we wanted to let people know, especially lodging, what to expect: if they could expect to accept new stays starting on the 16th or not,” wrote SEUHD’s Brittney Garff to the Moab Sun News.

“It’s only a letter,” said Garff. “We do not see this creating more confusion, rather it informs the public so they can see a future further out than the 5 days till the end of the current order.”

However, after many questions about the letter and its ramifications for the area the department issued a clarification FAQ less than 24 hours later to clear up misunderstandings about from the plans within. 

The clarifications include assurances that overnight lodging will remain closed until at least May 4 and that the department will “continue to vigorously promote” social distancing. 

Concluding, the clarification letter makes very clear that there is no clear plan to reopen businesses in southeastern Utah. In all caps, the letter writes “AS OF TODAY, WE DO NOT KNOW THE DATE THAT THIS WILL HAPPEN, BUT WHENEVER THAT DAY COMES, WE DO NOT WANT TO BE UNPREPARED.”

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