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State unveils new ‘scoreboard’ to map out COVID-19 recovery

(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Check the scoreboard to see how the state is really doing in COVID-19 recoveries.  State officials are unveiling a new website that gives the public a more complete picture of how healthy the state actually is. 

When it comes to recovery, state officials are looking at more than just the latest number of COVID-19 patients.  What is the state’s rolling seven-day average of daily cases?  How full are intensive care units?  Is the economy on good footing?  The state’s new “scoreboard” takes a look at the state’s recovery on both physical and economic terms with information updated every week.

DPS Commissioner Jess Anderson, who leads the state’s coronavirus response team, presenting the new scoreboard to reporters. Credit: Paul Nelson)

The Physical Side

Governor Gary Herbert set a goal of having fewer than 400 new positive cases, statewide, as a rolling seven-day average.  However, state health officials say that target number will drop if cases continue to decline.

Rich Saunders with the Utah Department of Health says “The thinking is that once we could sustain 400 [cases per day], then we would move it to 350 or 300.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the state scoreboard shows we’re not below the 400 daily case threshold.  However, the state is meeting its goal of having case fatalities making up less than one percent of all COVID-19 patients.  Plus, the state is meeting its goal of keeping ICU beds clear.  Currently, hospitals are only using six to seven percent of their ICU rooms for coronavirus patients.

The scoreboard also shows the state needs to improve how well outbreaks are contained at “Non-Long-Term Care Facilities,” like factories and meat packing plants.  However, the state is doing well in containing outbreaks inside long-term care facilities.

“In long-term care facilities, ‘success’ means that there are no more than five positive cases in that particular facility.  If we can be successful 90 percent of the time with that, then we will have hit our target,” Saunders says.

The Economic Side

The state is meeting its goal of having a 4.5 percent unemployment rate, so, the economy is doing great, right?  Not so fast.  David Eccles School of Business Dean Taylor Randall says there are some possible problems on the horizon.  For instance, he says there are some troubling trends when it comes to consumer confidence.

“We’re currently at a very low level,” Randall says.

If consumer confidence drops, spending drops with it.  If it doesn’t return to normal, Randall says it could lead to higher unemployment.

“When people are not confident, they’re going to end up saving or keeping their money to themselves.  it’s also an indicator that they don’t have jobs and can’t spend,” he says.

Business analysts also say the state has more unemployment claims than it would like to see, but we’re doing very well when it comes to the number of people enrolling into job training programs.

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