Summit County eyes May 1 as target date for slow reopening
Summit County officials announced Monday that the area’s economy might begin to open May 1, two weeks earlier than originally anticipated, matching a statewide push from Gov. Gary Herbert as the county has seen an increase in testing data that apparently shows the curve of new cases is flattening.
Summit County Council Chair Doug Clyde said the opening will be slow and start with certain business sectors that appear easier to operate safely amid the pandemic.
“This is not a light switch, this is a dimmer,” Clyde said. “We’re going to be — maybe on or around May 1 — cracking open the light a little bit.”
Clyde is part of a 25-person group of local officials that is working with business leaders to determine how different sectors of the economy can begin to open.
Some, like hotels, might be easier to reopen, while others, like concert venues or dine-in restaurants, might prove more challenging, Clyde said.
“There are certainly some industries that we have shut down currently that might be more easy to open up than others, and an example of that might be a hotel. You can explain to me how your staff can work with full prep and full personal protective equipment and limit the possibility of them receiving the virus or them giving the virus to the guests,” he said. “That’s not the same as being cheek to jowl at a concert at Deer Valley. Another one that might be more complicated — how do you open up indoor seating at a restaurant when you don’t have a lot of space?”
Last Thursday, county officials released a call to action for members of the business community to apply to represent their industries during the process to determine best practices for operating while mitigating the risks of COVID-19.
Applications were due Monday night, and Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson, who is also a member of the working group, reported that the county received 180 applications.
Once industry representatives are selected – scheduled to occur Tuesday after The Park Record’s press deadline – the representatives will work with other business operators in their sector to determine specific plans for how to operate during the pandemic.
The 25-person group, called the Stabilization Working Group, is evaluating the applications, and each member will be assigned to a sector to shepherd its proposals through an approval process led by the county Health Department.
Members of the working group include high-level Park City and Summit County staff members; representatives of the Health Department and attorney’s office; representatives from the Park City Chamber/Bureau, Park City Community Foundation and Park City Restaurant Association; and three East Side mayors.
The Health Department will have final approval over the plans for how businesses will reopen.
The original application listed 22 business sectors like faith-based organizations, food service/restaurants and gyms/fitness/recreation providers. Clyde and Olson said that some sectors will have more than one representative, while other sectors have been broken into more than one category.
This allows small pilates studios to operate with individual guidelines rather than being in the same category as large facilities like the PC MARC, for instance.
Clyde suggested the business-directed guidelines would be more effective than those created from a top-down, government-led approach.
“We think that business owner or the business community within that group will be the most practical people to bring up those items,” Clyde said. “Government doesn’t need to try and go out and sort out all the details of what does it mean to operate the alpine slide; let’s let the alpine slide operator talk to us about what that means.”
He acknowledged potential shortcomings of having industry regulate itself, but pointed to the business sector’s overwhelming compliance with the county’s public health orders as an indication of its positive intentions. And he said that business operators likely have been thinking of remedies for weeks and are the natural ones to lead the charge to reopen their industries.
Crucially, Clyde said, the county will rely on testing data to determine how their efforts to reopen the economy impact public health.
If a soft opening leads to a spike in new cases in the following weeks, Clyde said, the Health Department will likely reinstate some restrictions.
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