Full Statement: San Juan County closes camping to non-residents

San Juan County posted the following to its Facebook page on Friday, March 27, 2020:

We want to inform all public that there are current restrictions on all camping and on all non-essential leisurely travel within San Juan County, per the San Juan Public Health Department orders that were signed on March 27, 2020.

San Juan County residents are to follow the same social restrictions while camping as have previously been ordered. Gatherings of more than 10 individuals are prohibited. While camping, maintain a minimum distance of 100 feet between family groups. Maintain one camp per designated space. We are not trying to discourage outdoor activities and we also believe there are benefits to outdoor exercise and activities as long as they are done responsibly and in accordance with current social distancing recommendations. We ask San Juan County residents to avoid leisurely travel to other areas and also limit non-essential travel.

Leisurely travel is defined as travel into San Juan County for the purpose of vacationing or self-quarantining outside of your home county or state. Just as many other counties do not want San Juan County residents burdening their resources at this time, San Juan County does not have enough resources to welcome leisure visitors to our county at this time.

Leisure visitors to San Juan County are not allowed to camp, including developed and primitive sites. Although we understand the great outdoors may be a good way to self-quarantine, visitors can place heavy burdens upon our resources. The rural nature of our healthcare facilities presents us with limited services that are already taxed by a potential COVID-19 incident in our area. One injured visitor who needs overnight medical care means one less hospital bed for all of those who live in the county. Additionally, one visitor case of COVID-19 in our area would take away essential resources from those who live in the county. Leisurely travel in and through San Juan County is prohibited.

Additionally, our San Juan County Search and Rescue Division is busy and has already received numerous calls of visitors stuck in compromising situations in our backcountry. When visitors are lost or injured, our team is called out for rescue, along with San Juan County EMS. Oftentimes, we assist along with our fellow law enforcement agencies. Even if a visitor is not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, they may still be contagious and increase the risk of infection to our essential first responders, who would then need to be quarantined for 14 days.

It should be noted that all campers are currently being contacted by law enforcement officers to ensure compliance with the San Juan Public Health Order and closure signage is being established at popular camping locations. Citations can and will be issued, especially in instances of repeat offenders. As the San Juan County Sheriff, I have reached out and asked our local law enforcement partners to assist in enforcing this order and educating the public. This includes Blanding City and Monticello City Police Departments, the Utah Highway Patrol, BLM, and National Park Service.

PLEASE, if you are not a San Juan County resident, postpone any plans for an overnight stay in San Juan County Utah, whether that be in a lodging facility or camping, and help us protect our small community. All of us in San Juan County thank you for your support and we will welcome you back when this ordeal passes.

Jason Torgerson – San Juan County Sheriff
Kendall Laws – San Juan County Attorney
Kirk Benge – San Juan Public Health