We are at another inflection point with the coronavirus in our state. Many of you have heard about the statewide “Stay Safe to Stay Open” program to encourage businesses to take a voluntary pledge to follow basic public health best practices provided by the Utah Department of Health. That remains a key priority of the Chamber, Governor’s Office, and state leadership. This effort will be enduring as the linkage of public and economic health are comprised in the Stay Safe to Stay Open.
However, we have learned better methods to institute public health guidance and created a new COVID-19 Transmission Index. This index will now replace the old phased guidelines of red, orange, yellow, and green in order to streamline the response to protect communities. The risk levels will be automatic based solely on health department data per county.
The transmission index clarifies our public health metrics used to determine which counties will automatically fall under certain transmission levels. Counties will now be placed in one of three transmission levels categorized as High, Moderate, or Low. These new levels correspond directly to that county’s case rates, positivity rates, and overall state ICU utilization. Each one of these new categories carry with it different levels of restrictions for people and business.
For example, counties designated as “high risk” areas carry a mask requirement for public indoor settings, casual gatherings of family or friends should be less than 10 people and physical distancing. For moderate risk counties masks remain required and gatherings can increase to 25 or less. Data will be analyzed weekly, and Utahns should stay up to date on your local transmission index.
The goal of the transmission index is to provide each county with a snapshot of the three things that matter so they can work together to lower their individual index. The actions at each level are requirements as a public health order, they should be voluntary as they help us get control of this recent virus spike.
In addition to the new transmission index, Governor Herbert instituted a 2-week Emergency Declaration starting November 9 to curb transmission. The declaration:
- Place the entire state under a mask mandate.
- Limit casual social gatherings to household-only through November 23, 2020.
- Put all youth and high school extracurricular activities, including athletic and intramural events, on hold for the duration of the order.
- Require students enrolled at public and private colleges and universities, who either live on campus or attend at least one in-person class per week, to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
The mask requirement ensues for all commercial interactions, whether physically distanced or not, during this two week declaration.
Let me conclude with my appreciation for the work each of you have been doing to combat this challenge. I know we all have some pandemic fatigue as this is a new experience for everyone. I hope you each can take the time to reflect on the things that matter and see that there is fortune in the misfortune of this global pandemic. I know we can get through this challenge as we make informed decisions and follow public health best practices. Keep up the good fight!