Moab’s COVID-19 surge continues as state ends county mask mandates

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached a point similar to where it began: With Grand County and Salt Lake City officials seeking tighter public health restrictions than the state would allow them to implement.

On Tuesday, May 4, as Grand County was set to begin its third week in the category of high transmission of COVID-19, a state law passed in February automatically ended the county’s mask mandate.

The preemption took place because the state hit a milestone laid out in the COVID-19 endgame bill, as it is called, related to the number of vaccine doses alloted to the state.

Prior to Tuesday, the state had already made it under the law’s thresholds for overall case rates and COVID-19-specific intensive care unit hospitalizations.

As of the day that the endgame law took effect, Grand was the only county in Utah in the high transmission category. Each of its neighboring counties was at the low level of transmission, except Uintah, which was at the moderate level.

Despite the high transmission, Grand was among the handful of counties in the state with zero current hospitalizations for COVID-19, weeks into its most recent surge of cases.

Southeast Utah Health Department Director Bradon Bradford told the Grand County Commission two weeks ago that he was not “alarmed” by the increase in cases locally, in part due to a relatively high level of interest in vaccinations in Grand, the lack of severe cases, and the absence of hospitalizations.

This week, Bradford told The Times-Independent that the increase in cases relates to the influx of tourism to the area. He said that, because the long-term effects of COVID-19 vary and are not always predictable, people should not “just try to get it to ‘get it over with.’”

Vaccination serves as a superior alternative to contracting COVID-19 with respect to safety and efficacy. Studies have also begun to show COVID-19 vaccines could significantly reduce the possibility of spreading the virus.

Vaccine makers proved in studies last year that the shots are highly effective in reducing the severity of COVID-19 if contracted. Data suggests they are close to if not exactly 100% effective at preventing death and hospitalization from the disease.

Bradford said that the biggest thing Grand County residents and visitors could be doing better regards large crowds and attention to mild symptoms. He implored unvaccinated people to avoid large gatherings and to take a COVID-19 test in reaction to even mild symptoms.

University of Utah at Moab campus hits a construction milestone

a construction worker secures the final support beam on the new Moab campus of Utah State University

“Topping off” in construction is the act of securing the final support in a construction project. After that, it’s all drywall, furniture, and the rest. Photo by Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

Construction of the new campus of Utah State University at Moab reached a milestone on Friday, April 30, when workers secured the final beam of the new campus, which is known as topping out or topping off.

Campus Executive Director Lianna Etchberger and the construction workers on the project each signed the beam before putting it in place.

The university is targeting a 2022 grand opening.

The middle school basically gave away its old supplies in a surplus sale

A girl sifts through items at a surplus sale at the Grand County Middle School following the opening of the new Margaret L. Hopkin Middle School next door

Customers at the Grand County Middle School’s surplus sale dove for treasure among the piles of old school supplies last week. Among the items hauled: thermometers, calculators, chairs, magnifiers, stopwatches, books, and more. Photo by Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

Collectors and others hoping to get their hands on items from the old Grand County Middle School got their chance at a surplus sale last week.

The district all but gave away troves of items from books to calculators, compasses to chairs, and everything in between, selling even large collections of items for $10.

The surplus sale came days after the new Margaret L. Hopkin Middle School opened to students, teachers, and staff on April 27. Demolition on the old building next door is set to begin at the end of May, according to Grand County School District Superintendent Taryn Kay.

The Moab Rotary Club does something good (for once)

members of the Rotary Club of Moab pose with employees of the Moab Free Health Clinic

The Moab Free Health Clinic and the Rotary clubs of Moab and Park City have partnered to create a free vision clinic in Moab. Photo by the Rotary Club of Moab, licensed for exclusive use

I’m kidding, of course, by implying that the Rotary Club never does anything good. Their whole thing is doing good (and getting credit for it, which is their prerogative).

Here’s the press release they sent me with this photo:

The Moab Rotary Club has started a collaboration with the Hope Alliance in Park City and the three Rotary clubs of Park City and our very own Moab Free Health Clinic!

This weekend was the first of many to come, of two days of vision clinic held at the free health clinic and sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Park City and Moab. The clinic were able to test and prescribe glasses for over 50 people in the two days they were here and the glasses will be shipped to Moab in a few weeks and free of charge to the recipients.

It was a great success as it always has been. Several of our local Rotarians were hands-on and helped both days of the clinic. The program has been going on for 3 years with a twice a year visit for one day.

However the need for free vision test and prescription glasses is much bigger here in Moab so we are working on getting funding organized that the clinic can be happening every second month.

Also, the Grand County school district is interested in getting kids of families who are uninsured or under-insured participating in this program, and we are working on this with the county school nurse Mary.

Anyone who would like to support this project can donate directly to the Moab Rotary Club.

Britta Kingsley, President, Rotary Club of Moab; April 26, 2021; edited for clarity