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Utah legislative commission recommends SLC move to 'yellow' on COVID-19 risk scale

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SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative commission dedicated to re-opening Utah's economy is recommending that Salt Lake City move to a lower-risk level on the state's color-coded risk scale.

"The commission looked at data and we reviewed it for Salt Lake City and we think the data supports that move. So the commission, if Salt Lake City chooses to, we would very definitely support their move to go to yellow," said Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton.

Salt Lake City has been in "orange" -- or moderate risk level -- for months even as other parts of the state have moved to "yellow" and "green" on the scale the state utilizes to tell people about COVID-19 risk and dictate health regulations. The Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission has given input and recommendations to the governor on moving the level communities are in.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has suggested in the past that the city could move to a lower risk level. However, she changed her mind and kept Salt Lake City "orange" during a surge in novel coronavirus cases.

In a statement to FOX 13, Mayor Mendenhall said she did not plan to seek a change for now.

"While Salt Lake City data is showing improvement, known hotspots continue to be elevated and the recommendation from public health experts continues to be keeping Salt Lake City in the orange phase until there are additional data improvements," the mayor said in a statement released through her office.

Governor Gary Herbert told FOX 13 earlier this week he will not make any modifications to Utah's risk levels until they see how back to school plans go and if it leads to any surge in cases. Sen. Adams said he did not see any changes in the rest of the state.

"Most of the state’s been in green and yellow and that’s allowed our economy to move forward. There’s functionality in green and yellow so I don’t see a lot of changes happening in that for a while," he said. "I think Utah’s positioned itself well and we’ve functioned very well. Our economy can be helpful in yellow or green."

The legislature is expected to address a number of economic-related bills in a special session set for next week. Sen. Adams said the state has fared well, and he anticipated bills to deal with "unintended consequences" of previous bills and economic stimulus moves the state has made to respond to COVID-19.

"I think we’re going to take care of some of the unintended consequences that were created and maybe backfill in a few spots. But generally speaking, we’ll be looking at CARES money funding," he said.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are touting a ranking by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council that ranked Utah number one on economic outlook for the 13th year in a row.

"We’re seeing good numbers now aren’t we? Good numbers from ALEC as far as economic numbers, also good pandemic numbers, we’re seeing our case counts go down," Sen. Adams said. "We’re hopeful that as we make the transition out of the pandemic that Utah’s economy is poised to have the best economic outlook for recovery."