Southern Utah is seeing its lowest coronavirus case rates since the start of May, despite some events over the past weeks that saw hundreds of people gathered in close proximity, many without face coverings, according to David Heaton, spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, which oversees the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in the area. Heaton said the department has not discounted any possibilities with such a new virus; however, there is the possibility that large outdoor events may not be the super-spreaders they were thought to be.

“I think it would be safe to say outdoors is safer than indoor,” Heaton said. “We’ve not yet seen any large outdoor event be related to any significant outbreak. We continue to see smaller clusters among families and smaller gatherings.”

Heaton’s statement is consistent with the Utah Department of Health’s previous announcement in June that it considered gatherings of up to 6,000 people outdoors permissible. Thus far, large outdoor gatherings locally — such as the July 30 Operation Underground Railroad march against child trafficking in St. George, a recent parade for a fallen soldier, the Washington County Fair, Black Lives Matter protests and a June 13 country music concert at the Iron Springs Adventure Resort in Cedar City — have not yet resulted in a large outbreak of new infections.

It’s not just new cases that are trending downward in Southern Utah and the rest of the state, Heaton said Hospitalizations of local residents at Dixie Regional Medical Center with the virus are also at their lowest level since early May.

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