On Tuesday, Governor Herbert’s office released a plan called, Utah Leads Together. This fourteen-page coronavirus plan attempts to identify where we are as a state both from a health and economic perspective. It also details the stages that the state will move through as we escape the pandemic and the measures that will guide the state government to ease restrictions.
The plan highlights the path to recovery using three phases.
Right now we are in the Urgent Phase. It started on March 16 and includes measures like social distancing, limiting group sizes, closing schools, closing restaurants, economic stimulus, and limiting travel. The goal of Utah is for this phase to last from 8-12 weeks. If we meet that goal, it would mean some restrictions would be lifted around May 11 to June 8.
The Stabilization Phase includes social distancing but it is more targeted at specific groups. High-risk populations stay at home and telecommuting is still in place for some. In-restaurant dining rules would be reviewed at that point and short-term layoffs would continue. Interestingly it says, “hourly workers would find new opportunities.” That piece doesn’t sound encouraging. This phase is expected to last 10-12 weeks. If we are able to exit the Urgent Phase in early June, we would exit this phase in early September.
Then comes the Recovery Phase. Most limitations would be lifted, hourly and seasonal workers would return to normal work, and the tourism industry is supposed to recover. The goal for this final phase is conveniently timed for November.
The question I had is how do we know when we are able to move from Urgency to Stabilization. In other words, when do schools open back up and some of Summit County’s workers get back to work? Believe it or not, the Governor has an answer for that, and it is enlightening.
Once the Covid-19 transmission rate is below 1.0 for one week, the state will likely move out of the Urgency Phase. The transmission rate, or what the scientists call R naught (R0), basically means for each person infected, how many more people does that individual infect. The World Health Organization places the R0 for Covid-19 at 2 to 2.5 across the globe.
The method for determining R0 levels is beyond me to calculate. However, the Governor’s report says that if the total number of Utah infections are less then 800-1,000 by April 30, then it’s possible to have an R0 less than 1. Likewise, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget will be setting up a dashboard to track this. Once, that is running, the Park Rag will track official numbers.
So, the good news is that there now is a metric to guide us. Whenever the average, infected patient infects less than one more person, and that stat holds for a week, things will start to normalize. Some businesses will be able to reopen, and if it’s not summer, schools too. There will be a dashboard to tell us what the number is — so we can start to plan our future a little better.
It also tells us that the state government has set a magical date of April 30 to focus on. Don’t expect changes before then. Hopefully, if we can keep the number of infections down statewide (especially with the increased number of tests), we will get to R0 sooner rather than later.
That said, it appears we are in this for the long-haul. Even under the best-case scenario, this summer is going to be hard for local employees and families with children.
Good luck out there.