‘A goal for every Utahn’; State rolls out recovery plan for coronavirus impact

ST. GEORGE — Utah civic and business leaders announced a multi-phased plan for Utah’s health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday, which was named a “call-to-action” for all Utahns.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to reporters about the the Utah Leads Together state recovery plan for the COVID-19 pandemic, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 24, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Salt Lake Chamber, St. George News

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Derek Miller of the Salt Lake City Chamber and other business and government leaders held a virtual press conference held over Facebook Tuesday afternoon announcing the “Utah Leads Together” plan.

The plan has three phases, “urgent,” “stabilization” and “recovery,” which, if a tentative timeline laid out in the plan comes to pass, could take up to nine months to complete. However, the plan is dynamic and conditions can change, officials said, which is a reason they stress for every Utahn to adhere to current health guidelines as well as provide input on the plan.

The Utah Leads Together Plan can be found at Coronavirus.Utah.Gov.

The primary goals of the plan are to protect Utah residents from COVID-19 while also safeguarding the state economy as much as possible.

“You can’t do one without the other,” Herbert said.

The plan is the product of the government and business task force formed March 2 in order to conduct a “deep dive analysis” of the pandemic, its impacts on the state and how the state economy may recover from it, Herbert said.

“This is the most comprehensive plan of state in America,” he said.

Three major actions the plan asks Utahns to engage in are:

  1. Rigorously follow public health guidelines and measure transmission rates.
  2. Stay engaged with the economy.
  3. Assist those in need.

“We all have a role to play, we all have responsibility,” Herbert said. “This plan will only work if everybody participates in a united effort.”

The plan will only be as successful if people follow it, House Speaker Brad Wilson emphasized during the press conference.

“These three things should become a goal for every Utahn,” Wilson said, adding the actions taken over the next 10 weeks in Utah by its residents will be crucial for the success of the plan.

While social distancing was stressed, Utah leaders also said residents still need to support the economy and small business as possible.

“Utah is open for business,” Herbert said.

Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, said the transition from one phase of the plan to the next was based on the transmission rate of the coronavirus between an infected individual and others. A transmission, or pass-along rate, of 3.0 means an infected person may be able to pass the virus along to three other people. Those three people could then pass it along to others and so on.

The state is currently in the “urgent” phrase with a transmission rate of 1.5, Gochnour said. In order for the plan to reach the “stabilization” phase, that rate needs to drop to a consistent 1.0 or lower.

If successful, this will help the state’s health care system from becoming overwhelmed, according to the plan.

“Current estimates suggest that to reach a less than 1 to 1 transmission rate, Utah must have no more than 800-1,000 new statewide infections on or before April 30, 2020, with the number of new cases declining from that point forward,” the plan states.

Again, officials stressed moving the plan along requires every Utahn to continue to aggressively practice health safety measures currently in place.

The “urgent” phase of the plan is estimated to last between eight and 12 weeks with a pass-along rate of 1.5 for the virus that the state hopes to see drop to 1.0 or less. If the pass-along rate stays above 1.0, the urgent phase will be extended.

In the “stabilization” phase, which could last 10-14 weeks, the transmission rate of the disease is near zero. The economic measure for the recovery period is marked by a decrease in job loss.

The “recovery” phase happens when the transmission rate of the coronavirus is near zero. This is believed to see a period of improved health and hygiene practices, mainstream testing and broad improvement of the health care system, among other overall improvements, according to the plan.

The economic benchmark of the recovery phase will be a return to job growth as people return to work, telework opportunities expand, heavily impacted industries like hospitality, restaurants, retail and tourism begin to pick up again, and sporting and entertainment venues and events return, among other signs of economic recovery.

Currently, COVID-19 cases in Utah continue to climb as more testing becomes available, Herbert said. Despite this, the governor said he has optimism in the plan and reiterated the need for everyone to participate.

“It’s for all of us,” he said.

As of Monday, the Utah Health Department reported there were 298 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, with one coronavirus-related death reported Sunday.

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

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