Kane County reported its first COVID-19 death on Wednesday, August 5, a woman between the ages of 65 and 84 who was hospitalized. On the biweekly Kane County Task Force call, Dr. David Blodgett, the Director of Southwest Utah Public Health Department, which includes the counties of Beaver, Iron, Garfield, Washington and Kane, stated that the woman had multiple underlying health conditions. He used it as an opportunity to point out that we need to do all the things we can to protect “the high-risk people.” He said age and obesity are large factors and that people with a Body Mass Index over 40 do especially poorly when they get COVID-19.

In addition, Dr. Blodgett mentioned kidney disease as being problematic for COVID-19 patients, but also stated he was glad to see lower case numbers for Kane County, similar to the trend we’re seeing at the state level.

This while local businesses are experiencing the effects of the multi-month slowdown in overall business and visitors to the area. Camille Taylor with Kane County Office of Tourism expressed a desire for the public to know about the state of the economy and what affects the downturn is having on local businesses. “Room occupancy is below 50 percent, normally it''''s at about 80 percent this time of year. As of the end of June (the most recent numbers available), TRT tax (tax revenue from lodging) was down 47 percent, restaurant tax was down 37 percent. I worry about businesses and that some won''''t make it through the season.”

Even without COVID-19 it can be difficult to operate a profitable business in the area. Within the last year, we saw multiple restaurants in the area close and most area businesses rely on the tourist season to make their year profitable.

Taylor reminded folks that Western Legends is still on and coming up on August 14 and 15, with a little different lineup of events. We won''''t have the ''''Stars'''' this year and we''''re pushing for a comprehensive approach on COVID recommendations as listed on the CDC site, which includes washing hands, avoiding close contact, wearing masks when unable to distance, cover coughs and sneezes and clean and disinfect. It''''s all part of our ‘Above and Beyond’ campaign.”

According to the Tourism Office website that campaign includes making masks available to staff, recommending people wear masks in public, asking people to avoid touching their face, and to stay home if they’re feeling sick.

All of Western Legends events this year will take place outside, including the bands returning to Main Street. This year the event will hold one of the largest barbecue contests in the west. Taylor added, “We''''ve had to jump through a lot of hoops this year to meet the COVID requirements from KCBS organization to hold the event. We have a record number of teams this year. Hopefully we get a lot of people here.”

Kane County Commissioner Lamont Smith reminded folks that the Kane County Fair was still on and starts this Friday and runs through the following weekend. Smith said that hand sanitizing stations and other COVID-19-related precautions were being taken. Smith mentioned no other specifics and currently there is no reference to COVID-19 on the fair’s website.

Kanab Mayor Robert Houston took the opportunity to remind people to be diligent and that cases were still going up and said they had placed another ad this week in the Southern Utah News to reiterate the recommendations regarding COVID-19 to the community.

Kane County Hospital administrator Sherrie Pandya said they are not seeing nearly as many people coming in for COVID-19 testing in the last two weeks. “Testing is way down. People are just not coming in as much. We have plenty of tests and turnaround time for results is only a couple of days.”

People need to have a doctor’s order to get a COVID-19 test at KCH, unless they’re on a list of exceptions, that list includes city staff. Pandya explained that the official count for Kane County does not include visitors, and that they have seen 70 total positive tests at KCH, 59 of those positive tests were Kane County residents. Of the remaining 11, four were from Fredonia, five were tourists, and two had a second home in Kane County. Technically 29 of those cases are past the three week mark when they are officially considered recovered, however Pandya noted that they can test positive up to two months.

Kanab Police Chief Tom Cram reported a high number of police reports in the last month attributing it to people being active. Cram asked Dr. Blodgett if he should still be wearing a mask even though he’s past the three week mark since testing positive for COVID-19. Blodgett replied. “Yes, whenever you’re out in public.”

The Kane County Task Force is made up of local business and government leaders for the purpose of sharing information between them. While the Task Force has been meeting every two weeks for months it is not open to the public. A group of local citizens sent a list of questions to the task force, but since the task force itself is not a decision-making body those questions were largely passed along to the appropriate representatives at the county and Southwest Utah Public Health Department.

Dr. Hollingshead from KCH wrapped up the meeting by saying, “We are all in this together. It’s not going to just disappear, unfortunately.”

If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, call your doctor immediately.