Officials release revised recovery plan as new COVID-19 cases continue to surge

Gov. Gary Herbert holds a copy of the current Utah Leads Together guidelines for health and economic recovery during the daily COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

SALT LAKE CITY — Officials released new guidelines for restoring the economy and preventing the spread of COVID-19 as the state saw one of the highest daily increases of cases of the virus. The announcement came during a press conference Wednesday at the state capitol.

Gov. Gary Herbert wears his mask as he enters the daily COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled Utah Leads Together 4.0, explaining that it was the latest revision that lays out the state’s groundwork for a recovery. The plan spells out specific priorities at 100, 250 and 500 days in the recovery effort.

“Central to volume four,” explained Herbert, “is the imperative that Utahns continue to take personal responsibility on the directions that are being asked of them, including public health guidance, proper hygiene, social-distancing, washing hands, and wearing face masks. If we are going to have success on this, it really comes down to each one of us as individuals to follow these guidelines. If we do so, we are going to slow the spread of the coronavirus and stop it, and be able to open up Utah’s economy quicker.”

The press conference was held as the Utah Department of Health announced 407 news cases of COVID-19 since Tuesday. The percentage of positive cases compared to test completed is currently 7.9 percent, compared to 10 percent last week.

Herbert also explained that he was calling the legislature into special session Thursday, to address the deficits in the state’s budget, caused by the recession. He said although the state has been impacted, the damage hasn’t been as bad as originally predicted.

I think we have opportunity to be optimistic that we are on the road to recovery already, as mentioned here a couple weeks ago. Our unemployment rate is 9.7 percent, which is at recession levels around the county in 2008. Now our 9.7 percent is about 5 percent lower than the national average of 14.7.”

The Utah Leads Together 4.0 plan focuses first on lowering unemployment by helping residents return to work or find new employment opportunities. It also provides financial incentives to businesses that pledge to follow health guidelines.

Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn said health officials have been seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases over the past three weeks. During that time period, the state has averaged more than 200 new cases a day.

The risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is higher than ever in Utah,” said Dunn. “I’m urging you to limit your number of close contacts, by practicing social-distancing, wearing a face covering when you are in public places, practicing good hygiene, and staying home when you are ill, no matter how mild the symptoms.”

Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, listens to a question during the daily COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

Wednesday’s press conference occurred as the Bear River Health Department reported 30 new cases of the virus during the past 24-hours, 27 in Cache County and 3 in Box Elder County. The number of hospitalizations have remained the same with 18 currently in Cache County and 5 Box Elder County.

Dunn said the numbers of new cases showed that the state has been facing an outbreak. The cases continue to spike and are not flattening yet.

“Right now we’ve seen an acceleration from about May 28, with our daily cases now reaching into the 400’s. We are definitely seeing an increase in our growth rate and unfortunately have not yet hit a plateau.”

The Idaho Department of Health reports there have been a total of 3,540 cases reported and 88 deaths. 15 cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. No cases have been reported in Bear Lake or Oneida counties.

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