SALT LAKE CITY — A 16-page plan described as the product of collaboration across all sectors in the state of Utah maps a three-stage guidepost for how the state can hope to weather and conquer the devastating public health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unveiled Tuesday in what Utah Gov. Gary Herbert described as his first virtual press conference, “The Utah Leads Together Plan” charts first the urgent phase, then the stabilization component and finally, recovery.
Herbert said it is the most comprehensive state response plan in the nation, but stressed it is not his plan but rather the result of a lot of hard work by some of the best minds in the state.
It predicts a monthslong treadmill for the state to achieve recovery, both in public health and the economy.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said time is a crucial element to tamping the spread of COVID-19.
“The next 10 days are especially critical,” he said, emphasizing the goal to flatten the curve. “We can solve the problem in our own Utah way.”
Herbert urged everyone to read the plan and follow its guidelines.
“This is not my plan, it is our plan,” he said, stressing it is the responsibility of every Utah resident to adhere to current public health regiments in place.
It maps out an aggressive public health approach, ramping up testing capacity and protecting bed space in hospitals for those who most critically need care.
He announced the state had increased its capacity to conduct 2,625 tests daily through a network of health care systems.
That strategy evolves, too, around having a goal that no more than 800 to 1,000 new statewide infections be logged by April 30 and to get to a transmission rate of less than one to one per person contact by protecting vulnerable populations.
This first “urgent” phase will take eight to 12 weeks, with the emphasis on eight, while stabilization is mapped out at 10 to 14 weeks and recovery another eight to 10 weeks.
Herbert emphasized that the state remains open for business and that residents need to do what they can to stay commercially engaged with the business sector, but still practice social distancing and proper hygiene.
While acknowledging the resources of the federal government and its critical assistance at this time of the pandemic, Herbert and other leaders stressed that Utah must be innovative and creative when it comes to channeling its strength.
“We’re better than FEMA,” Herbert said.
Impacts to the hospitality industry are a “heartbreak,” the governor added, but he stressed there will be recovery.
The hope is to get back to as much normalcy as possible by Easter, he said, “but we don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.”
In terms of any vaccine, the governor said: “I hope they have a Manhattan Project going,” referencing the research and development project during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons.
In a later virtual conference, Hebert emphasized to Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, that the best type of federal aid would be a block grant for states to spend to meet their own unique challenges.
Romney, who is in home quarantine even though he said Tuesday he tested negative for COVID-19, told Herbert and others that the stimulus package is on the 2-yard line and on the verge of being passed.
It includes economic relief for families, small businesses and corporations and he emphasized it is critical for businesses to document lost revenue.
Natalie Gochnour, who is director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, said in this urgent first stage for Utah, the emphasis has to be on protection of public health.
“The most important economic guidance to follow is the public health guidelines,” she said.
The plan can be found at coronavirus.utah.gov/business.