COVID-19: What’s Next in Utah

We’re all getting more and more anxious about what the future holds and the measures taken by the state to stop the spread of COVID-19. There’s a lot to keep track of with updated information coming in all the time. 

For example, the governor of Utah recently announced in a press release that starting May 1st, the state will transition from a level “red” or high risk, to a more moderate or “orange” level. 

What does that mean exactly? What changes will affect us personally?

When you get a minute, there’s a 28-page document called “Utah Leads Together: Utah’s plan for a health and economic recovery”. This document outlines a lot of these changes and the indicators that the Economic Response Task Force will be using to guide the state between each phase. For a more simple read, there’s a 19-page document which outlines the different phases and what guidelines are required or recommended to each industry. Even though they are both a bit long, these documents are really well organized and worth looking over.

Having read through both documents, I would like to highlight some important points. As much as you can, be sure to stay informed. Knowledge is power, especially at a time like this.

A large part of the efforts of the Utah Leads Together document focuses on how businesses and indivduals can access state and federal help. If you do not yet know where to find these resources, it would be worth reading through the 28-page Utah Leads Together document. It does a great job explaining each supportive measure. If you need help, make sure you know where to find it.

Utah, it seems, will be using a new color system to indicate where we are in responding to COVID-19. Here are the colors and their respective score (level of risk and disruption) and the main differences between them:

Red: (10-8) Essential activity only. Schools closed. Work from home except for necessary services. Shelter in place. Rate of COVID-19 cases rising.

Orange: (7-5) Essential activity with limited additional activities if following safety precautions such as wearing face masks and staying 6-feet apart. Schools still closed. Work from home. Rate of COVID-19 cases leveling and/or falling.

Yellow: (4-2) Schools open. Continue to maintain general social distancing measures. Possibly return to work, but with the idea to remain cautious and vigilant. Continue monitoring to avoid sudden spikes in COVID cases. Rate of COVID-19 cases falling.

Green: (1) “New Normal” Schools and businesses open, but with higher standards for cleaning and hygiene. We are not sure how long it will take to reach the GREEN phase.

At all levels, high-risk individuals should still take additional precautions. Those who live with high-risk individuals should follow similar safety measures to protect these individuals.

These documents include a number of guidelines and requirements as Utah transitions between the various phases.

So, as we move from RED to ORANGE, what’s the difference?

The short answer, not a whole lot. 

As we transition to ORANGE over this next week, we will still need to engage in social distancing, work from home, wear face masks, sanitize hands, clean surfaces, and limit interactions with others. More detail has been added to all phases, especially to the RED and ORANGE phases in the hopes of standardizing these practices.

The biggest difference between RED and ORANGE, however, is regarding non-essential businesses. Many of those businesses are going to start opening back up at varying degrees. As businesses open, depending on their industry, they will be taking similar precautions and follow safety procedures that we’ve seen in, for example, grocery stores. 

Gyms are encouraged to stay closed, but with guidance for the ones that decide to reopen. Salons and other services that require close personal contact will be allowed to open under strict guidelines. People are allowed to attend events, but with the same social distancing protocols and procedures that reduce or eliminate contact. Hotels and other hospitality industries are given specific guidance as well. 

One recurring theme is the face mask. Face masks are now generally required when going out and about, especially when it is likely you will have to interact with someone at a distance less than 6 feet. Free face masks will be available to those who struggle getting one.

As various places of business open up and you begin to venture out again, you need to be mindful of a bill that passed in the recent special session. Senate bill (SB) 3007 protects businesses and entities from legal action relating to COVID-19. In other words, if you get COVID-19 at a restaurant, you won’t be able to sue the restaurant. This isn’t all that different from the way things were before. If you caught a cold at a restaurant, you also couldn’t sue the restaurant because you caught the cold. Either way, proceed with caution.

This is exciting and scary news to a lot of people. Those who have been struggling economically, even with supportive measures from varying levels of government, are looking forward to reopening and offering their services to the public again. Others feel we are moving too soon and will lose the ground we’ve gained. Utah has been especially good — fantastic even — at responding quickly to the COVID-19 threat. Many worry that we will have to start all over again.

And that leads me to my last point. 

Regardless of where you stand as we battle this pandemic, there are plenty of things we can do to protect ourselves and the ones we love. In those moments you feel powerless, remember that what you do matters. It does help. And your willingness to do your part will make a difference.

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