Day to day, minute to minute, we are learning more about the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, particularly how it is impacting us here in the State of Utah. As a follow-up from our previous email sent last week, we wanted to ensure that our Utah cultural organizations understand the current recommended precautions from the Utah Coronavirus Task Force, led by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox with the support of Governor Gary R. Herbert.
As many of you have likely heard, the Governor and the Utah Coronavirus Task Force strongly encourage the cancellation of any gathering of more than 100 people beginning Monday, March 16, for at least two weeks. These measures are intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Additionally, any gatherings where people cannot be at least six feet apart are being recommended for cancellation or postponement. Adults over the age of 60 or those with underlying health symptoms should avoid all gatherings, as should anybody feeling sick, especially with symptoms that include fever, shortness of breath, and cough.
Although these are only recommendations and not outright prohibitions, we would strongly encourage everyone to consider cancelling or postponing any planned events until health officials can better determine the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. For those who still choose to host events, please amplify the message of safe hygiene, social distancing, and staying home if sick. If you do choose to cancel events, please remember to adjust your event listing on nowplayingutah.com.
Over the next two weeks, testing for COVID-19 will increase significantly and allow state officials to provide further guidelines. During that interval, it is imperative that every Utahn take every step possible to prevent the spread of the virus.
We also recommend that you look ahead at your schedule of programming and events, beyond this two week period. If new recommendations are made, or if the current recommendations are continued, it is important that you have the ability to make any additional cancellations, postponements, or adjustments that are necessary.
Additionally, institutions of higher education throughout the state have moved to online classes and minimized on-campus gatherings for the weeks ahead. K-12 public schools have not been closed statewide, but local school districts will have the opportunity to make their own decisions on potential closures. If your organization has upcoming programming with local schools, we encourage you to reach out to those individual schools to find out about their ongoing decisions and to make collaborative decisions on how best to proceed.
Of course, previously recommended precautions still apply. Remind people to wash their hands frequently, and provide hand sanitizer throughout your facility. Wipe down countertops and other surfaces frequently with sterilizing wipes. Train volunteers and staff to limit physical contact with visitors. Remind staff or volunteers to stay home if they have any signs of illness. If possible, take steps now to prepare your staff for remote work if a closure is ordered, and ensure you have an emergency communication system in place.
As always, we are available to answer any questions or concerns you have. State offices for the Department of Heritage & Arts are still open for regular business, and we will keep you updated if our staff is asked to work remotely in the weeks ahead. Regardless, we will still be available throughout this time by phone and email. Additionally, the state is providing regular updates at coronavirus.utah.gov, and national resources are also available at cdc.gov.
Here is a link to Utah Health Department information.
Victoria Panella Bourns
As the State of Utah prepares for a 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we wanted to ensure that you, the people and organizations that Utah Division of Arts & Museums supports, understand the precautions you can take and the potential risks of an outbreak. Governor Gary R. Herbert has appointed Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox to lead Utah’s effort to limit risks from COVID-19.
It is important for cultural organizations to prepare for emergencies. You have a role to play and can be supportive.
What are the current risks in Utah of a potential outbreak of COVID-19?
Currently, there are no confirmed cases in Utah, although one person is quarantined in Murray after contracting the virus outside the state. However, health officials are planning for the virus to spread throughout the nation and are encouraging everyone to prepare for an outbreak in their communities.
What precautions should your organization take immediately?
Remind people to wash their hands frequently, and provide hand sanitizer throughout your facility. If you have surfaces that many people will touch, provide sterilizing wipes for people to use to wipe down those surfaces before and after use. Wherever possible, train your volunteers and staff to limit contact with visitors, which could range from encouraging waves instead of handshakes, looking at tickets without touching, or using digital programs instead of printed booklets.
Remind staff or volunteers to stay home if they have any signs of the illness, which can be as mild as the common cold. As an organization, this may require adjustments to staffing levels, hours, or leave policies. Take steps now to ensure all of your staff and volunteers will be notified if a closure is ordered. Help them prepare for a temporary closure by equipping them to work remotely and reviewing the process they would follow to secure your facility and protect anything of value.
Are there any restrictions on events in Utah?
There are currently no restrictions in place. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has said an outbreak in Utah could lead to a limitation on mass gatherings. While not a cause to panic, Lt. Gov. Cox said it’s important to prepare if your organization has upcoming events that will have a crowd of people in one place. Creating a plan now will assist your organization.
What should be included in a plan for event cancellations or temporary shutdowns?
Make sure you have a way to alert staff and volunteers, such as through a calling tree or other alert system, and test that system in advance. You should also develop a communication plan that clearly identifies your public spokesperson, media contact, and internal staff communicator.
Detail every tool you will use to communicate with patrons, event attendees, and ticket holders. If it’s an event with tickets bought in advance, plan to clearly explain how refunds will be handled for both cancellations and postponements and educate all staff members about your policy. Finally, review your contracts with performers, paid speakers, and venues for their policies on cancellations and postponements to understand your potential financial liabilities. If needed, look into event insurance to protect yourself against financial losses.
Are there any plans to close state offices?
Contingency plans are being developed to have all employees work remotely if an outbreak occurs. While this would cause some disruptions in our work, most of the services provided would still be available. In particular, grant applications would still be accepted and funds would still be distributed.
As a community organization, what can you do to assist local and state officials?
Educate everyone you serve on how to limit the spread of the virus, and remind them to avoid other people if they feel sick. Provide them with tips about preparations for a quarantine, such as having two weeks of food and other essential items on hand.
Where can I find more information?
The Utah Department of Health has launched coronavirus.utah.gov, which will serve as a primary source of information for everyone in the state. This website provides general information about prevention, links to local resources, and recommendations for providers. This will serve as a primary source of updates and information for Utah.
For a national view and more detailed information about coronavirus, The Centers for Disease Control has a website at cdc.gov/coronavirus. This website will also provide immediate updates on the spread of the virus.
Thank you for your consideration,
Victoria P. Bourns
Utah Division of Arts & Museums