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Utah economic shutdown
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Governor Gary Herbert emphasizes ‘shut down is not under consideration’

(The reflecting pool at next to the Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – Governor Gary Herbert repeats he is not considering another economic shutdown.  Some Utah lawmakers and local Utah business owners say they don’t believe the state’s economy would survive another economic shutdown.

As you walk into Tonkotsu Shabu Shabu Bar in West Valley, you’d notice things are fairly quiet.  The old owner sold the restaurant shortly after it reopened from the shutdown, and new owner Kevin Nguyen says business still hasn’t recovered.

“Sales have dropped.  It’s hard to get an estimate, but I want to say almost 50 percent,” he says.

Nguyen has already let staff members go.  He says profits are practically nil, and they’re only staying open so the public doesn’t forget about them.  If the state were to go through another economic shutdown, he doesn’t believe he’d survive.

“Small guys like us… our restaurant is family-owned.  It’s just me and my brother.  We only serve 26 people.  We’re not backed by a large corporation.  So, your local businesses are struggling the most,” according to Nguyen.

Governor Gary Herbert’s office issued another statement showing he’s still very concerned about the rising number of new daily cases, but, it also states, “The Governor has made it clear that a so-called ‘shut down’ is not under consideration at this time. Even under Utah’s ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’ directive most of the economy was allowed to move forward with precaution.” 

However, the governor says he’s still going to champion the wearing of face masks, and State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn’s recently released memo about possibly moving the state into the moderate or “orange” risk level is one of many recommendations on the table.

Representative Paul Ray agrees that a shut down would cripple the already battered economy.  He says too many businesses had to close their doors forever because of the first one.  However, he also says state leaders need a better plan to move forward while taking steps to protect people from the virus.  For instance, he believes unemployment insurance should be extended to older people who are more susceptible to the disease, so they don’t have to go into an unhealthy environment.  Plus, he says people working low-income jobs may not have enough sick time to allow them to stay home.

Ray says, “The state needs to find a way to plug that hole to make sure that they don’t go to work sick.”

Ray doesn’t believe the governor should mandate face masks across the state.  Instead, he believes mandates should me more laser-focused.

“There are areas that just don’t need it.  I think you give that power to the local health departments and let them decide if their area needs to mandate it.  Texas has done that,” he says.