SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert has announced a plan to re-open parts of Utah's economy that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19.
The governor unveiled "Utah Leads Together 2.0," a revised version of the plan he introduced at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, as businesses were closed and people were told to stay home to stop the spread of the virus. FOX 13 first reported on the proposed plan on "Good Day Utah" Friday morning.
"We have fared far better than we hoped. But we know there are many that are struggling," said Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, who chairs the governor's task force responding to the pandemic.
The plan moves from one of public health to one of economic stabilization. The governor announced that by early May, he would like to resume sit-in dining, elective surgeries and allowing gyms to re-open. On Friday, Gov. Herbert lifted the restrictions on visiting state parks, and said he hoped to have national parks re-opened to Utahns soon.
"All this again depends on continued adherence to our stay safe, stay home directive," he said.
That means measures like social distancing, wearing face masks in public and staying home except for necessary travel remain in place, either under the governor's directive or local governments' stay-at-home orders. Derek Miller, the president of the Salt Lake Chamber and chair of the governor's economic recovery task force, pleaded with businesses to practice social distancing, good hygiene and take care of high risk employees.
"Common sense and good judgment must reign supreme," he said.
The timeline provided by the governor's office showed March 2022 as the date when Utah would be completely recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said economic recovery is important.
"Many have lost jobs, they’ve lost businesses, they’ve been furloughed or seen wages cut," he said. "We have to do more to help these victims of the virus."
The legislature on Friday passed a bill to create their own commission to advise the governor on re-opening the state's economy. Speaker Wilson and Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, spoke of a color coded system from red to green that can be applied to parts of the state and where they are in recovery. Right now, the state is in "red."
But the state will not move as one to "green."
"That doesn’t mean all the state is green," Gov. Herbert cautioned. "It may be there’s some hotspots that are yellow or orange. We need to have flexibility on those regional differences."
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has also been looking at lifting restrictions. In an interview with FOX 13, the mayor said she was looking at early May as a possible target date to start phasing in some re-openings.
"You cannot re-open business in the right way, without health considerations," Mayor Wilson said. "As we look at the next phase, moving out of this urgent phase, on to re-openings, we need to have the health departments as partners and do it right."
State health officials have collaborated on the plan, said Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. Some portions of the proposal were written directly with input from state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn and the Utah Department of Health.
"We can still protect the health and safety of people and allow economic opportunity to resume. That’s not at the exclusion of health care," Lt. Gov. Cox said.