ABC News report says life is normal in Washington City; mayors say it is far from it

Picture of carts setup outside of Walmart so people can lineup and wait to get in, Washington, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In a recent ABC News report on Washington City, life was portrayed as normal in Southern Utah. People were playing golf, waiting in lines to get into stores and cars were on the road. Washington City Mayor Ken Nielson and St. George Mayor Jon Pike said that is not the truth.

Picture of carts setup outside of Walmart so people can lineup and wait to get in, Washington, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The report spoke about crowded streets, relating them to the empty 405 freeway in Los Angeles, and people or businesses not taking the necessary precautions to help limit the spread of COVID-19

Both mayors went against the report, saying that life is vastly different in Southern Utah. Stores and businesses have closed down or are limiting the amount of people in their businesses at one time, both in St. George and Washington. Both mayors also mentioned that while some people might not be taking COVID-19 as seriously as they should, many are and the local stores and businesses are as well.

“We have not closed the golf course, and we have not closed the pickleball courts, but we monitor those hourly to make sure that those folks are taking the right precautions, sanitizing everything and keeping social distance as mandated by the governor,” Nielson said. “Our city staff, they all wear masks at work.”

St. George Mayor Jon Pike called the report disturbing.

Washington City Hall, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 10, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George, News

“When you consider schools have been closed for a month, most churches are not doing services, certainly restaurants have been impacted heavily, several of the gyms have closed, some salons have closed and some are restricted … think about what grocery stores have done to accommodate. The hospital and physicians aren’t doing any elective surgeries, and some parks have closed,” Pike said. “It’s anything but business as usual.”

In Washington, Green Springs Golf Course remains open, but Nielson talked about how golf can be a good way for people to get out of the house and keep social distancing. He said the course is limiting golf carts to one person per cart, and they are sanitizing the carts after use. The players are also asked to keep social distance while on the course.

“I don’t know if there is a salon in Washington that is open, but those haven’t actually been mandated to close,” said Nielson.

Washington City Mayor Ken Nielson addresses city residents in a video regarding the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington City, Utah, March 18, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Washington City, St. George News

Mike’s Barbershop on Telegraph Street in Washington closed just this week, and other businesses are taking the necessary precautions to ensure social distancing. Stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Costco are all limiting the number of people that can enter into the store and have signs that emphasize keeping social distancing. Mike’s Smoke Shop, another business mentioned in the ABC News report, is limiting the amount of people allowed in the store to just six.

Other stores have patrons lineup outside of the locations, keeping social distance, and allow them to enter as people exit the locations. Places like Joann’s in Washington are only allowing 20 people in at a time, while restaurants in Southern Utah are limited to only takeout, curbside pickup and drive-through orders.

Everyday life is not continuing on as it normally would, and that is what struck the mayor as shocking about the report.

That’s what made me really upset. Life is not normal and everyday,” Nielson said. “It’s not.”

Nielson also mentioned that the interview he had with the ABC News reporter was a 20-minute interview. A short, “I agree” response from Nielson was inserted into the video report. The mayor was also not identified in the video.

Mayor Pike said that people in Southern Utah have taken it to heart and that the city is looking at the state and federal level on a daily basis for information. He is confident in the local and statewide ability to collaborate and share information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t helpful and it wasn’t accurate,” Pike said of the report.

COVID-19 information resources

Southern Utah coronavirus count

Positive COVID-19 tests: 53, including 1 death and 26 recoveries.

  • Washington County: 36
  • Iron County: 13
  • Garfield County: 1
  • Kane County: 3
  • Beaver County: 0

Hospitalized: 4

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!