Murray, IMC grapple with coronavirusMar 30, 2020 01:12PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Murray first responders may show up in protective gear to stay safe from the COVID-19 virus. (Photo courtesy Murray City Fire Department)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Murray officials declared their first-ever state of emergency on March 13, closing down public facilities such as the library, Park Center, and the Senior Recreation Center in response to the coronavirus. This announcement came less than a day after the Murray City School District shut down Murray schools after students were potentially exposed to the virus (see the article “Murray School District Will Close ‘Indefinitely’ in Caution of Coronavirus, Beginning Mar. 13”).
Granite School District facilities on Murray’s eastside later shut their doors after Gov. Gary Herbert ordered all schools in Utah to close on March 14. Students in both school districts are continuing their courses online.
“Murray is following the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and has been in contact with the State Health Department regarding the Coronavirus,” Murray City’s Communications and Public Relations Director Jennifer Heaps said. “Our fire marshal, Joey Mittleman, is part of the emergency managers group for our region and is staying up to date on new developments related to the virus.”
Utah’s first COVID-19 virus patient was brought to Murray’s Intermountain Medical Center. The St. George man tested positive for the disease after being on a Diamond Princess cruise ship in Asia. He was quarantined in California, then brought to IMC’s high-level isolation unit by a specialized medical transport.
According to IHC, Intermountain’s isolation unit has its own water and air filtration and independent entrances. As of Saturday, March 15, IMC was reportedly overwhelmed with people who were concerned that they might have the virus. They posted on their Facebook page, “We ask those not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath) to avoid going to hospitals and clinics for testing. The high volume of healthy people coming to our facilities is affecting our caregivers’ ability to provide care for those truly in need.”
In anticipation of COVID-19’s impact on the medical center, IHC restricted visitors to two per patient, starting on March 10. Patients throughout Utah were directed by all healthcare providers to use telehealth means or contact Utah’s coronavirus information line at 1-800-456-7707 before going to a facility.
Area hospice and nursing homes also began restricting visitors. COVID-19 has proven especially lethal to senior citizens.
Mayor Blair Camp’s proclamation declared a local emergency that will exist throughout the outbreak. This necessitates the utilization of emergency powers granted in Utah Code Annotated Section 53-2a-205. Murray’s “Proclamation of Local Emergency” enables the city to enact measures immediately necessary “to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the City.”
To shut down services such as the library, senior center, and parks and recreation programs, a proper public notice had to be given. The proclamation gave city officials 30 days to make necessary changes to operations without notice.
Per the city’s press release, “The city is also suspending all recreation and cultural arts programs. Events such as Fix-a-Leak Week and our recycling drop off for antifreeze, batteries, oil, and paint (ABOP) are also suspended.” The mayor also announced at the March 3 city council meeting that some city employees will be allowed to telecommute to minimize disruption of services.
Murray’s first responders are receiving regular briefings on the virus, and their services are expected to be stretched. Paramedics will be responding to calls in protective gear to stay safe from COVID-19 exposure. Murray Fire Department posted on their front page, “Don’t be surprised if we show up with a mask, glasses, and a gown to a 911 call. We may even place a mask on the patient. This is for the protection of the responder and patient.”
The City Council has asked that residents participate in its next meeting via live-streaming broadcast, per the governor’s declaration limiting meeting sizes, and that questions can even be submitted for public hearings via email. Both city council and city planning meetings are streamed live at www.murraycitylive.com.