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Salt Lake County Health Department
General Information  
Phone: (385) 468-4100

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated March 30

These FAQs are specific to Salt Lake County or Utah. For FAQs about COVID-19 in general or the national and international response, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention FAQ site.

Stay Safe, Stay Home

Q: What is the Salt Lake County: Stay Safe, Stay Home public health order?

This purpose of this Public Health Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate at home to the maximum extent feasible—while enabling essential services and businesses to continue—to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Q: What does the Stay Safe, Stay Home order include?

The order includes information regarding:
  • New, more stringent stay at home directives
  • Closures of common gathering places
  • New, more stringent rules for businesses that will stay open
  • Restrictions of food service activities
  • Clarification of essential businesses
  • Clarification of essential infrastructure not to be impacted

Q: When does it go into effect? And how long will it last?

The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 30,and is in effect until 11:59 p.m. on April 13, 2020.

Q: Where can I read the order?

Q: How is the Salt Lake County order different than the governor's directive or Salt Lake City’s proclamation?

The order is consistent with the state’s directive but provides additional detail and clarification about closures and restrictions. The Salt Lake County order also includes enforcement.

Salt Lake County Health Department is the local health authority for Salt Lake City, so the order is in effect for Salt Lake City.

Q: What businesses will need to close? What businesses can remain open?

Businesses most commonly asked about are listed here.

If a business is not listed as either "CLOSED" or "ESSENTIAL," then it may remain open provided it:

  • Excludes employees with fever, cough, or shortness of breath from working; and
  • Ensures all people in the business remain 6 feet away from each other at all times.

You may also review the full order here.

Q: How will this order be enforced?

State law requires penalties for violating a local public health order. These penalties classify the offense as a misdemeanor (class B for the initial offense, class A for repeat offenses. Salt Lake County has asked local municipalities to enforce the health order initially with warnings rather than citations. Repeat or egregious offenders may be cited and charged.

Q: Can I leave my home?

Individuals are discouraged from leaving their place of residence except for outdoor activity, health and safety purposes, to get necessary supplies and services, to provide essential care for others, and for certain types of work.

Q: Can I still go to work?

If you work at an essential business, you can go to work and practice the strict social distancing rules there.

All other residents are encouraged to work from home as much as possible.

Q: Can I go outside?

Yes, we encourage individual sports and recreation such as walking, hiking, and running—but stay 6 feet away from people outside your household—as well as gardening and yard work.

Congregation in groups is prohibited anywhere in the county, including in outdoor spaces such as neighborhoods, parks, and trails.

Q: Will liquor stores be open?

Utah State Liquor Stores are considered grocery stores for the purposes of this order, so they are considered essential and will remain open.

Q: Can dog groomers stay open?

Yes. If dog groomers are able to follow the requirement to maintain six feet of social distancing between all people at all times, they may remain open. COVID-19 is not known to spread between dogs and people.

Q: Will I need a letter to prove I'm doing essential work? Will there be police checkpoints?

We have asked our law enforcement partners to NOT set up checkpoints and to NOT require credentials, letters, or proof of essential work.

Law enforcement should use their best judgement to enforce the spirit of the order, and to use warnings rather than citations whenever possible. 

 

Gatherings

Q: Are there exceptions to the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people?

The prohibition of gatherings of more than ten (10) individuals does not apply to critical government services such as fire, police, emergency response, and court services, or to other necessary services such as hospitals, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, licensed or contracted residential care providers, grocery stores, stores that sell other commodities, gas stations, convenience stores, building and construction worksites, and the shipping, transportation, and airline industry.

However, these industries and services must use appropriate precautions to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, including frequent sanitation and enforcing social distancing of 6 feet between all people as much as possible.

Q: Can I have more than 10 people in my workplace?

Yes, the order should not be interpreted as requiring a business to limit staff in a single location to a maximum of ten (10) employees. But businesses must use social distancing of at least 6 feet and teleworking wherever possible.

The goal is to prevent one person’s respiratory droplets from another person’s immediate vicinity.

Q: What about large families?

The public health order does not apply to a family with more than ten (10) people in the same household.

Extended family should stay connected via telephone or video rather than in-person gatherings, particularly with family members at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness, such as those over 60 and those with other health concerns.

Q: With the ban on gatherings, can community sports teams still play?

A: No, community team sports should not take place. This is in alignment with the Utah High School Activities Association suspending all athletics, including practices, games, and gatherings.

Individual sports and fitness, such as swimming, tennis, yoga, etc., may continue as long as all participants remain 6 feet apart at all times with fewer than 10 individuals in an immediate vicinity.

Q: Should I stay home from my community event or public gathering?

On March 16, Salt Lake County Health Department issued a Public Health Order prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more people.

On March 18, the Utah Department of Health issued a Publc Health Order effective March 18 through April 1 prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people.

If your gathering has not been canceled by the organizer, we advise you to stay home as much as possible.

Food Service

Q: When does the ban on dine-in operations go into effect?

A: This Public Health Order issued by Salt Lake County is effective March 16, 2020 for 30 days. Food service businesses across Salt Lake County must be in compliance by 11 p.m. on March 16. 

The Utah Department of Health, in coordination with the Governor's Office, also issued a similar Public Health Order for the entire state on March 17 effective through April 1.

Q: Can customers pick up a prepared meal from inside our establishment?

A: Yes, customers—who are not ill and who maintain 6 feet of space between other patrons—can pick up orders for take-out. They must, however, order remotely via telephone, app, or online. Drive-thru and carhop ordering is allowed as the intent is to avoid people waiting in common areas for orders to be prepared.

Ordering inside the establishment is not allowed under the Utah Department of Health's March 21 public health order. Dining rooms must be closed to patrons. Payment systems should be sanitized between each customer.

Establishments are prohibited from admitting patrons except to pick up food for take-out.

Q: I don’t have a drive-thru window, can I still provide food service to customers?

A: Patrons may enter the establishment to obtain pickup or to-go orders, as long as ordering occurs in advance. Patrons may not order on-the-spot inside the establishment. Businesses must also follow the social distancing component of the Order and comply with sanitation recommendations of SLCoHD. Patrons must maintain a minimum of 6 feet from other patrons. Dining areas must be closed to access by patrons.

Q: Can food trucks and carts operate?

Food trucks and carts are allowed to continue operations because the order prohibits people from ordering INSIDE a food establishment. No one should ever enter a food truck except employees. 

We strongly encourage trucks to allow pre-orders and payment online, but orders by customers from outside the food truck are acceptable.

The main messages for food trucks are:

  1. They must have a separate money handler that does not prepare food.
  2. They must encourage social distancing of at least 6 feet when they start to get a line of customers.
  3. We recommend that they set up an online order system that includes payment.

Q: Can convenience stores still operate?

Convenience stores should frequently sanitize commonly touched items and surfaces. An employee who handles cash/cashiering may not be involved in food operations.

Other rules include:

  • No self-served unpackaged food (hot dog rollers, nacho bars, etc.); packaged food in warmers or coolers is acceptable.
  • No self-serve coffee pots; coffee must be poured by the food-handling employee.
  • No self-serve condiment bars; condiment packets are allowed if given out by an employee.
  • Self-serve fountain drink stations are allowed but ONLY with new cups every time (no reuse of cups and no cups brought from home).
  • Cups, lids, and straws should not be self-serve; they should be handed out by the food employee.
  • Drink stations should be disinfected at least every 30 minutes.

Q: Can cafeterias and made-to-order food service continue to operate?

A: Made-to-order food service (sandwich shops, bagel shops, fast casual) and cafeterias, within businesses or as separate food-service entities, may not operate with dine-in service or inside ordering. They may provide food for customers to eat elsewhere alone (such as in a personal office or personal vehicle) as long as ordering occurs remotely via app, telephone, or online. Patrons must exit the establishment as soon as they have picked up their order; they cannot linger.

Q: Can I still provide catering?

A: You may provide catering to groups under 10 people as long as everyone in the group remains 6 feet apart and it is not self-serve.

Q: Can customers still access my self-serve buffet for takeout?

A: No. Self-service buffets are not allowed.

Q: Can restaurants, cafes, and delis within grocery stores still operate?

A: For pickup and take-out only.

Q: What about bulk food items at grocery stores?

A: Self-serve unpackaged bulk food items at grocery stores are not allowed.

Q: Can food courts operate in malls?

A: For pickup and take-out service only. Ordering must occur remotely via telephone, app, or online. Ordering inside the establishment is not allowed.

Q: How should we handle payments?

A: We recommend handling payments remotely, either via app or over the phone. If payment in person is necessary, maintain 6 feet between people and wash hands after each transaction (for cash), or sanitize the customer point-of-sale keypad/device after each transaction.

An employee cashiering/handling cash MAY NOT handle food or food containers in any way.

Q: Are cash transactions allowed?

A: If a distance of 6 feet is maintained between people, and the cashier washes hands between each transaction, cash transactions are allowed.

The cashiering employee may not be involved in food service in any way.

Q: What should we do if employees cannot eat meals in work areas?

A: For businesses that cannot permit employees to eat in work areas, offices, or at their desks, we suggest employees eat outdoors spaced 6 feet from other individuals or within their personal vehicles.

Q: What is the penalty for not following the order?

Under Utah Code 26A-1-123(5)(a)(i), the criminal penalty for violating a public health order is a class B misdemeanor.

But the intent of this order is not to penalize; the intent is to convey how serious COVID-19 is to public health and what's at stake.

Q: Where can I find small business support?

A: On March 17, the Governor Office’s has convened an Economic Task Force where you can seek additional information. We suggest visiting the State Coronavirus website, coronavirus.utah.gov.

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce also has additional information for local businesses at slchamber.com/coronavirus/. 

Other Businesses

Q: Are personal services (salon, spa, massage, cosmetology, tanning) permitted to operate?

No, the March 29 Salt Lake County: Stay Safe, Stay Home order prohibits these establishments from operating until at least April 14, 2020.

A: Can gyms stay open?

No, the March 29 Salt Lake County: Stay Safe, Stay Home order prohibits gyms and fitness centers from operating until at least April 14, 2020.

Q: How should child care services operate?

Please see the March 29 Salt Lake County: Stay Safe, Stay Home order page for guidance.

Q: How should physical therapy clinics and services operate?

Please see the March 29 Salt Lake County: Stay Safe, Stay Home order page for guidance.

Q: Can dog groomers stay open?

Yes. If dog groomers are able to follow the requirement to maintain six feet of social distancing between all people at all times, they may remain open. COVID-19 is not known to spread between dogs and people.

Q: Are there guidelines for dental offices?

Dental clinical services must implement protocols to prevent potential exposure to and spread of COVID-19 consistent with the Utah Dental Association's guidelines.

Q: How should we handle payments?

A: We recommend handling payments remotely, either via app or over the phone. If payment in person is necessary, maintain 6 feet between people and wash hands after each transaction (for cash), or sanitize the customer point-of-sale keypad/device after each transaction.

An employee cashiering/handling cash MAY NOT handle food or food containers in any way.

Q: Are cash transactions allowed?

A: If a distance of 6 feet is maintained between people, and the cashier washes hands between each transaction, cash transactions are allowed.

Q: What is the penalty for not following the order?

Under Utah Code 26A-1-123(5)(a)(i), the criminal penalty for violating a public health order is a class B misdemeanor.

But the intent of this order is not to penalize; the intent is to convey how serious COVID-19 is to public health and what's at stake.

Q: Where can I find small business support?

A: On March 17, the Governor Office’s has convened an Economic Task Force where you can seek additional information. We suggest visiting the State Coronavirus website, coronavirus.utah.gov.

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce also has additional information for local businesses at slchamber.com/coronavirus/. 

Medical

Q: What is considered “exposure” to COVID-19?

You are considered potentially exposed to COVID-19 if you have recently (within 14 days) traveled to an area experiencing widespread community transmission or if you have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.

Close contact is defined as within 6 feet of the person for at least 15 minutes.

Q: What should I do if I think I've been exposed to COVID-19?

You should quarantine at home for 14 days after the potential exposure watch for symptoms. Symptoms could appear any time between 2–14 days.

Q: I think I have COVID-19; what should I do?

If you are symptomatic with mild illness, stay home and isolated; mild illness does not require medical care as there is no treatment for COVID-19. 

If your symptoms are severe (fever over 102° F or difficulty breathing), call your healthcare provider for guidance. DO NOT visit your provider without first calling or contacting your provider via telemedicine app.

Health care providers need to rule out other potential causes of your respiratory illness, such as influenza, before requesting COVID-19 testing. To be tested, you must get a direct recommendation by your health care provider.

Q: If I've been ill, how long until I can return to work and be in public?

Isolate in your home until you are better and one of the following has passed, whichever is longer:

  • 7 days after you first felt ill
  • 3 days after you no longer have a fever without the aid of fever-reducing medications

So, for example, if you were ill for 2 days, you need to wait 5 more before returning to work; if you were ill for 9 days, you need to wait 12 days before returning to work.

General

Q: How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Q: Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
  • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Q: Can the virus spread from contaminated objects?

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Q: How long does the virus survive on objects?

The virus is known to survive on surfaces for hours or days. It has been detected up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 2 or 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

Q: What should I use to clean objects and surfaces in my house?

See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. Note that products are listed by their EPA Registration Number, not their brand name. EPA Registration Numbers must be printed on the product (usually in the fine print) and are two or three numbers separated by a hyphen, like 12345-12 or 12345-12-2567. Be sure to follow all label directions and precautions when using the product.

Q: Should Salt Lake County residents be concerned about COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a serious threat to public health, but everyone can do their part to help:

  • Stay home as much as possible. People over 60 and those with health concerns should be especially vigilant about staying away from other people.
  • If you do have to leave home, such as for groceries or medication, do so during off-hours so there are fewer people out, and send only one person per household. Maintain a distance of 6 feet between yourself and other individuals in public.
  • Practice good health habits that help your immune system work effectively:
    • Get appropriate sleep.
    • Stay physically active.
    • Manage stress.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Eat nutritiously.
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  • Keep on hand at least a two-week supply of food, as well as prescription and nonprescription drugs. While it is always good to ensure your 72-hour kits are stocked, it is not necessary to purchase water or most other emergency supplies in response to COVID-19; this is not a natural disaster and our utility systems, including water and electricity, will continue to function normally during the outbreak.

Q: What happens now that we have cases of COVID-19 in Utah?

Utah’s public health system has plans and procedures in place that are designed to help limit the spread of infection within our community. These plans and procedures include isolating ill people and quarantining people who may have been exposed, as well as canceling school, church, and community events.

On March 13, Governor Gary Herbert announced that all public and charter schools in the state will be dismissed for at least two weeks as part of a "soft closure.”

On March 15, the CDC limited gatherings, community events, and other types of assemblies to no more than 50 total individuals, which must maintain 6 feet of space between themselves for social distancing.

On March 16, Salt Lake County Health Department issued a Public Health Order, effective Monday, March 16, at 11:00 p.m. for 30 days, that all food service, restaurants, self-serve buffets, bars, and tavern business operations in Salt Lake County are prohibited from providing dine-in food service.

On March 18, the Utah Department of Health also issued a Publc Health Order effective March 18 through April 1 prohibiting food service dining and bars across Utah. The state's order also prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people..

On March 19, SLCoHD updated its order to match the State of Utah's. 

Take-out, drive-thru, pick-up, and delivery (including by third-party services) food service is permitted; mobile food (trucks/carts) are also permitted. These non-dine-in food services are allowed only with the social distancing and sanitizing requirements outlined in the order. 

All businesses and workplaces are required to implement social distancing measures and exclude symptomatic workers from physical attendance in the workplace. Social distancing should include at least 6 feet between customers in the establishment. 

Cash payments are strongly discouraged.

While third-party food delivery services (ie. Uber Eats, Door Dash, etc.) are permitted, they must observe "no contact delivery" to eliminate person-to-person contact.

Q: What can Salt Lake County residents do to protect themselves when COVID-19 is circulating locally?

Because there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19, it’s essential that everyone take actions that help prevent the spread of all illnesses:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Never leave home if you are ill.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly: scrub with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Follow social distancing recommendations in the public and in the workplace.
  • Avoid contact with ill people.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow; do not cough or sneeze into your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid sharing food and personal items.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

Q: Do I need to buy a face mask?

No. Please save face masks for health care personnel working with people confirmed to have COVID-19.

Surgical-type face masks can help prevent your respiratory droplets from getting out into the environment; they do not prevent you from inhaling airborne germs. So while they can be useful for preventing sick people from making others sick, they are not especially useful for keeping healthy people from getting sick.

Wearing an N95 respirator mask can help prevent illness, but the respirator mask must be individually fit-tested and worn correctly. Currently, N95 respirator masks should be reserved for specific populations who are at the greatest risk, such as health care professionals working with an infectious patient; widespread public use is unnecessary.

Q: What is Salt Lake County Health Department doing about COVID-19?

We are doing everything in our power to help ensure the health and safety of Salt Lake County residents. This includes, but is not limited to: providing guidance to health care providers and businesses, monitoring individuals determined to be at risk for COVID-19 (which can include daily contact with each individual), and investigating reports of illness.

Public health is also working with employers, school districts, and other community entities to provide education, collaboration, and preparation to address this emerging threat to public health as effectively and efficiently as possible.