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In Utah, data drives enforcement of stay-at-home directive

The coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S. along with the economic ripple effects of the nationwide shutdown. In Utah, a state that relies heavily on tourism, thousands of people have applied for unemployment benefits. Liz Adeola, host and producer for PBS Utah, joins Hari Sreenivasan from Salt Lake City with more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Liz, tell me how a state like Utah is dealing with this.

  • Liz Adeola:

    Right now we are under a stay at home directive, which is not an order, so it's not enforced by police and a lot of counties, but in Salt Lake City they are giving citations for people and it's a little bit more heavy handed than the state directive.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So there is an inconsistency there. Not all of Utah is under the same restrictions if it's not enforced the same way everywhere.

  • Liz Adeola:

    That's correct. And that's because some of the data that's come in that shows the numbers in other counties that have smaller populations are not as large as they are in Salt Lake City. The numbers of covid-19.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So is there, is there a different perception, then, of how real this is or what kind of measures need to be taken depending on what part of Utah you ask the question?

  • Liz Adeola:

    I think there is, because people who have not seen larger numbers, larger cases, they haven't seen people at the doctor's offices and hospitals in their local areas. They don't, it hasn't hit home to them yet.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What are the economic ripple effects in a place like Salt Lake?

  • Liz Adeola:

    The ripple effects are, I think, devastating. There are so many people who, thousands of people who have applied for unemployment. This time last year, it was minuscule compared to what it is right now. And people are just searching for ways to take care of their families during this time and maintain the lives that they had before coronavirus and everything happened.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Are any of the businesses there able to pivot? Are they able to figure out a new set of needs that they can fill?

  • Liz Adeola:

    We've seen a few stories of businesses that were able to pivot and find ways to keep their employees coming in and making a living. But it has been tough. Those stories have been few and far between.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What about education? How are the school systems doing? What are the challenges that students and, well, parents are facing?

  • Liz Adeola:

    In talking to parents what I've seen is that people are struggling to maintain working while also teaching their children as well. And I think that there is a new understanding of what teachers go through and trying to teach their children. And I think there's going to be a greater understanding coming out of this of what our education system needs to help those students.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And where does Utah sit in its plans to try to restart?

  • Liz Adeola:

    Right now things are supposed to open back up in May. That is the goal. But they are definitely following the guidelines of making sure that we have decreases in the number of covid-19 cases and hospitalizations for two weeks before that can occur.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So it'll still be informed by the public health data?

  • Liz Adeola:

    Absolutely.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In general. What's it been like? I mean, when you drive through the already wide streets of Salt Lake. Are people heeding the warnings?

  • Liz Adeola:

    For the first time a couple of days ago, I went outside for a walk and it was empty. And this is an area where people love the outdoors. That's a part of the draw of living in Utah is people love to ride bikes, they love to hike and they love to get out there even when it's almost a hundred degrees outside. So to go out there and see the streets just bare and the sidewalks just bare with you know, just maybe less than a handful of people walking around, it's really eerie, but it's telling that people are listening and they are taking this serious in this area.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You know, I was supposed to be in Zion with friends this week. How significant is the impact on, say, the tourism industry, which Utah does rely on?

  • Liz Adeola:

    I think the tourism industry is taking a big hit. State parks right now. Only people who reside in the counties where the state parks are are allowed to go into those parks and other people have been turned away. They're saying they're turning away hundreds of people a day because they're trying to stop the spread and they're making sure that people are social distancing and are only traveling when they need to for work or emergencies. So tourism is definitely taking a hit because of this.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Liz Adeola from PBS Utah, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Liz Adeola:

    Thank you.

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