At their Jan. 18 meeting, the Grand County Commission discussed the state of COVID-19 and the possibility of a mask mandate and reviewed data from a survey of potential visitors.
COVID-19 threatens essential services
As of Jan. 19, nearly all of Utah has a “very high” COVID-19 case rate, according to the Utah Department of Health website. Grand County’s cases have been rising. Commissioner Mary McGann began her report with concerns about COVID-19.
“It’s starting to affect some essential businesses and essential services,” McGann said, sharing that she’s been working with the Solid Waste Special Service District as many of its staff have had to miss work because of infections.
“If it continues, and they continue to lose as many workers as they are, then the first thing they’re going to do is they will temporarily suspend the single stream recycling,” McGann said. If the district continues beyond that to suffer staff shortages because of COVID-19, the district’s plan is to suspend cardboard recycling, limit service to roll-off trash containers, temporarily close the recycling center, and eventually temporarily close the Moab landfill, if needed, McGann said.
Southeast Utah Health Department Director Bradon Bradford said he is not currently considering a mask mandate. Under current state statute, the county commission does not have the authority to issue a mask mandate; it must be done by or in conjunction with the local health department.
“In the current environment, I don’t see a mask mandate having an impact on caseload reduction,” Bradford wrote in an email shared with the Moab Sun News. “I’m not saying that masks aren’t effective, but there is so little compliance with using an appropriately fitting, high-quality mask, that a mandate would not significantly impact disease transmission.”
Bradford stressed that locals should get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and stay home if showing signs of illness.
What do visitors want?
Commissioner Kevin Walker revisited data from a survey of potential Moab visitors conducted last year by consulting company Love Communications and initiated by former Grand County Economic Development Director Elaine Gizler, who has since moved on to a new position.
Walker focused on four questions included in the survey: issues affecting how people choose where they’re going to vacation; their preferred activities when they arrive; their views on a shuttle system; and their views on a timed-entry reservation system for Arches National Park.
“I’m not claiming I’m hitting the most interesting parts, but I think these are things that are worth paying attention to,” Walker said.
Responses suggest that visitors care most about reasonable lodging prices and that their destination is not too crowded.
Nighttime quiet was valued higher than the existence of a nightlife, and quiet streets scored higher than the ability to drive UTVs on the street.
“I think the survey is confirming what we all probably already knew anecdotally: that visitors like it to be quieter too,” said Walker.
Survey results suggest that most visitors are interested in visiting the national parks, hiking, wildlife viewing, and dining.
“The things that we often associate with Moab, like rock climbing, mountain-biking, ATV-riding or four-wheeling, scored relatively low,” said Walker. “We should keep in mind that our typical visitor is probably someone who seems like a rather boring visitor from our point of view.”
Walker noted that it’s important to understand visitor motivations because they’re a critical part of the county’s economy, and that similar surveys can be funded by transient room taxes that are earmarked for promotion.
The Grand County Commission meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Grand County Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at www.grandcountyutah.net. Residents can email email@example.com to automatically reach each County Commission member, the commission administrator, the associate commission administrator, and the county attorney.