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Gov. Herbert announces economy may begin reopening near end of month

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday the next stage in his “Utah Leads Together Plan” — addressing future steps to reactivate the state’s economy and allow Utahns to return to “normal life.” This comes one day after the Utah State Senate passed a bill creating a commission working specifically on reopening the state’s economy.

Gov. Herbert, along with the Utah Economic Recovery Task Force, said it would detail what the coming weeks would look like as they begin to deal with the economic and public health crisises caused by COVID-19.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox announced the state would be launching “Utah Leads Together Plan 2.0.” Part of these next steps include putting a foundation in place to overcome the “challenging times,” Herbert said.

As of Friday, Herbert said the state will be moving forward into its second stage of his plan — entering the “Stabilization Phase.” He said they expect to launch this next stage soon, predicting the shift will occur at the end of April or beginning of May.

Herbert said he is hopeful by the beginning of May, Utahns can lift restrictions on social distancing measures, continue with dine-in services, allow for elective surgeries and more. Along with this next phase, employees can begin returning to work as they stay vigilant with social distancing measures.

Additionally, he said beginning Friday the state will begin to lift measures to open state parks. Reopening national parks in Utah is still a work in progress, Herbert said.

 

“The trend looks positive, but now’s not the time to pull back on measures,” he said.

Herbert said the move to the next phase is not “like a light switch” — it will be a gradual move toward recovery.

The governor said the state has seen a decline in infection rates and testing has improved.

“Our plan is working,” Herbert said. “It’s bending the curve. […] I feel good with where we’re at.”

Herbert said the state is doing better than they had initially anticipated, which is a good sign. His original plan had three phases in place: Urgency, Stabilization and Recovery — with the state looking forward to move to the second stage.

As of right now, stay-at-home directives and orders are in place until May 1 — with promise the state may begin to gradually reopen. Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, said Thursday while this is a “good goal,” the state will regularly analyze data to ensure it doesn’t reopen too soon.

Gov. Herbert said the updated plan is similar to the plan President Donald Trump unveiled Thursday, aimed to slow the spread of the virus and begin gradually opening the economy. The governor said it’s important to continue making future decisions based on data, rather than fear and politics.

 

Part of this is continuing hygienic guidelines like practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing hands rigorously and regularly.

Speaker Brad Wilson said the state will continue making adjustments to the plans as more information becomes available, but he feels confident the state is ready to gradually return to normal.

However, he said the state is still in the “high risk” phase — but current projections show Utah moving toward “moderate risk.” Wilson said by the end of April, the state is projected to move from this red (high risk) phase to orange (moderate risk).

As the state moves into the next phase, it doesn’t mean life will completely return to what it was like pre-shutdowns. Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said this new idea of “sustainable social distancing” will need to continue.

This means vulnerable populations should continue staying home while other populations begin to roam cautiously, maintaining a six-foot distance and wearing masks.

Overall, Lt. Gov. Cox said the only way the state will continue improving its efforts is if Utahns don’t neglect what they’ve learned and continue being careful.