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Grand County seeing bump in COVID cases amid springtime visitors

MOAB, UT – Grand County is seeing the highest COVID-19 case rates in the state. Springtime is also when the area sees tens of thousands of visitors because it’s the home of Moab and Arches National Park.

Southeast Utah Health Department Director Bradon Bradfield told KSL there is a correlation between their COVID-19 case rates and the increased visitors to Grand County. 

“It’s certainly noticeable for us,” Bradfield said.

According to data collected by KSL, Grand County’s current 14-day average case count per 100,000 population is 604.9 per 100,000 people.  It’s the only county in the state with a 14-day rate of over 500 per 100,000. For perspective, Salt Lake is currently just over 150 per 100,000. 

“It doesn’t equate to a huge number of cases, but because Grand County has a small population it’s certainly noticeable.”

Bradfield said they’re still trying to pinpoint exactly why their case rates are that high, but says there is a direct association with the large crowds they have seen lately. 

“This [rise in cases] has also come in almost direct conjunction with the coming of spring and huge numbers of crowds coming to Grand County.

He said many of the people who live in Moab work in the tourism industry. He thinks the spread is happening as they are contracting it then bringing it to people they live with. 

“It’s more likely an exposure [is] happening in a work or tourism-related setting and then [they’re] bringing it home.” 

Bradfield says it’s spreading primarily among those aged 20-40, although not exclusively. And he says they’re seeing more school-aged children affected. 

“In most of these cases, we’re seeing one person will affect about two others in their family or their living situation so that’s driving the numbers up a little bit more.”

The good news, Bradfield said, is they’re not seeing a lot of severe disease from it. He says Moab has also been fairly active with testing.

On Monday Arches National Park had to close its gates for about two hours because of too many visitors.

The park reopened just after lunchtime when the crowds thinned.

This week is also National Park Week where there are many activities and free admission days.

Masks are still required at all national parks nationwide, as well as in Grand County.