Private, Public Sector Partnerships Continue With Efforts To Begin Reopening Utah May 1

Apr 17, 2020

On Friday, state officials announced the second iteration of the “Utah Leads Together” plan. Through this plan, private industry is partnering with the healthcare community and religious groups to not only get Utah’s economy functioning normally again, but to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the state. Derek Miller, president of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance, said the partnership between the public and private sectors represents “the Utah way” of coming together to help the state, as a whole. 

Relief Society President with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jean Bingham agreed before she announced the church’s new partnership with Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah to sew 5 million face masks for critical providers. Hospitals in Utah are using 50,000 mask every day, according to Bingham, and the newly announced volunteer effort is meant to provide a 100-day supply for Utah’s frontline employees. Bingham said any remainders will be donated throughout the U.S. She said the PPE partnership harkens back to when early settling church members established some of the first healthcare systems in the state. 

Utah has seen a “relatively small number of deaths” compared to other states in the country, according to speaker of the house Brad Wilson, thanks to social distancing and proper hygiene in response to COVID-19. Wilson said the state is working on returning to normal, though with the exception of those with compromised immune systems and other high-risk individuals. He said SB3004 was passed yesterday to create the public health emergency economic commission, and the bill is key component to get the economy functioning normally. According to state senator Stuart Adams, the bill’s committee will report to Gov. Gary Herbert next week, and the governor will have until April 30 to enact the proposals in order for the state to start reopening May 1.

Herbert said the state will not enact a "one size fits all" policy, and while all of Utah is currently in "red alert," certain areas may downgrade to "orange" or even "green" before others, depending on the concentration of cases and vulnerable groups in the area. In fact, Herbert said he’s in talks with officials to get Utah’s state and national parks back open — at least for Utahns — though the governor added opening the parks to other states may not be possible at this time. Brandy Grace, with the Utah Association of Counties, said there will be regional updates for the state on how to safely reopen, as well as identifying vulnerable populations before the economy is reactivated. Miller says it’s one thing for a business to reopen, but it’s another thing for a customer to feel safe in utilizing these services.