As the curve appears to be flattening, Summit County charts course for allowing businesses to reopen in mid-May, with restrictions
Summit County announced on Thursday details of how it intends to begin lifting the restrictions it has imposed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic that have effectively shuttered the local economy.
Eying a new public health order in mid-May that would allow many businesses to at least partially reopen as long as they comply with certain protocols, the county is soliciting help from local business sectors to recommend best practices their specific industries.
The county said in a prepared statement that conversations about lifting restrictions are only possible because of the successful implementation of public health directives like the March 25 stay-at-home order.
“Due to your efforts, we have ‘flattened the curve’ in the infection rate in our County and have saved lives,” the statement reads. “Now, it is time to start the conversation about how we ease back into economic and social activity without losing the great progress we have made and inadvertently cause a new wave of infection.”
The current orders, including the stay-at-home mandate, remain in effect until May 1 and officials have said the stay-at-home order will likely be extended.
The county announced certain mandatory minimum protocols that will apply to businesses in the next health order. It has invited business sector representatives to recommend additional restrictions to layer on top of those minimums that pertain to specific industries. For example, a restaurant industry representative might suggest reopening dine-in service with increased social distancing guidelines in place like reducing the number of tables and moving them farther apart.
The first step is for industries to select representatives. An application form for prospective representatives lists more than 20 industries, from manufacturing to transportation to faith-based organizations.
Applications are due Monday, April 20, just four days after the initiative was announced.
There will then be an orientation for representatives to learn how to craft their protocol proposals, which are tentatively due May 1.
A so-called Stabilization Working Group will evaluate applications and appoint industry representatives, Health Director Rich Bullough said.
The working group includes representatives from the business community, mayors from Summit County’s municipalities. attorneys and transportation and health officials, according to County Attorney Margaret Olson. It is named after the second step of the three-step plan issued by Gov. Gary Herbert to guide the state through the process of responding to the pandemic. The state is in the first, “urgent” phase, and the plan announced by the county Thursday is the path to the second, “stabilization” phase.
The industry-specific protocols suggested by business sector representatives will be evaluated by the Health Department, Bullough said.
Summit County, Park City and the Park City Chamber/Bureau are also working on a framework to guide the transition between phases. Titled “Together/Unidos Summit County,” the plan provides a more general strategy for how to navigate the pandemic, explained County Manager Tom Fisher, while the business-oriented plan released Thursday provides more granular tactics for moving from the first phase into the second.
Olson indicated the county is coordinating with neighboring counties to synchronize timing of easing restrictions to avoid discrepancies that may confuse residents.
The next public health order is anticipated to be released around May 15 and will include the industry-specific protocols as well as county-mandated minimum requirements for businesses.
Those minimum standards would direct businesses to take steps including giving older or vulnerable employees duties that will reduce their risk, providing sanitizer and dividing workers into groups of fewer than 10 who would work with each other consistently to reduce potential exposure.
“We are working to balance the competing priorities of public health and the local economy, while continuing to look for new and innovative ways that allow businesses to operate safely during this pandemic,” the county statement reads.
Many businesses and their workers have been reeling in the wake of the economy being shuttered. The plan announced Thursday is likely to be welcome news to many, even as there remains uncertainty about how quickly Summit County’s tourism-based economy will rebound from the shutdown.
For more information or to apply to be an industry representative, visit summitcounty.org.
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