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Park City government plans no layoffs, furloughs even as private sector suffers broad losses

The Park City government is not considering layoffs or staff furloughs through at least June 30, the end of the municipal fiscal year, the city manager said this week, a sign that officials see the current budget as having short-term sturdiness even as there have been widespread convulsions in the private-sector labor market in recent weeks.

City Manager Matt Dias in an interview acknowledged a revenue shortfall is projected in the municipal budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which started on July 1, 2019, and ends on June 30. The steep drop in economic activity caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus, including the closures of Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort several weeks before they planned to stop running the lifts and the shutdown of numerous other businesses, triggered City Hall to activate a recession plan. Nearly all municipal hirings have been frozen, capital projects have been temporarily delayed and expenditures deemed not to be essential have been suspended.

Dias said officials are in the early stages of the internal budget discussions. Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council are scheduled to start the budget talks later in the spring as they prepare to adopt the spending plan in June. Dias said the budget planning has been “upended.” He also said, though, there are budget staffers remaining at the Marsac Building from the recession more than a decade ago, providing institutional knowledge as City Hall readies for what will almost certainly be the most difficult budgeting process since the recession.

The timing of the spread of the disease, though, is seen as fortuitous for Park City’s tourism-driven economy. Much of the ski season business had already been conducted by the time the novel coronavirus decimated travel. The March and April tourism numbers are projected to drop sharply on a year-over-year basis, but the crucial December-February stretch of the ski season was strong, meaning the financial impacts on City Hall will likely be contained.

Dias said the municipal government and the wider business community had already collected nearly four months of revenue by the time the mountain resorts closed. He said the community is “blessed” with the timing as he compared the impacts to those that would have occurred had the disease spread in December, as Park City prepared for the lucrative stretch from the holidays to the Sundance Film Festival in January.

“We were fortunate to receive the economic hit when we did,” Dias said, also conceding City Hall itself is not “immune” to the drop.

The municipal government is among the largest employers in Park City, with staffing levels in 2019 ranging between 647 and 512, according to data compiled for an annual City Hall financial report. The numbers put City Hall in the top six employers in Park City, based on the number of maximum workers at any point in a year.

The municipal plans to retain staff could eventually draw questions from rank-and-file Parkites if the downturn persists, particularly if the layoffs and the furloughs in the private sector continue. There are reports of layoffs, furloughs or reductions in hours across many industries. Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts this week indicated it is furloughing nearly 400 workers at PCMR starting Saturday and lasting for a minimum of several weeks. The employment situation appears to be dire elsewhere in the community as well with people working in industries that are largely dependent on the resorts suffering.

Dias said municipal staffers are continuing their regular work or have been shifted to other duties, such as those who work in buildings like the Park City Library and the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center that have been temporarily closed. They are helping deep clean buildings, performing regular maintenance and painting the interior of buildings.

“We’re trying to keep people employed,” Dias said, adding, “We’re trying to keep them productive.”

Tom Clyde: These days, even cleaning out the Roomba counts as excitement

If everything goes according to plan, we have another month of this stay-at-home-and-hide-from-the-virus to deal with. I’m not sure what happens on May 1, assuming the order is lifted as scheduled and we are set free to go out and share our germs again. Do we all have parties on a Great Gatsby scale, and eat three meals a day at restaurants we’ve been missing? Or will we stick a toe in the water to see how it feels and gradually re-enter the world, maybe with a barbecue with family, then maybe go out for lunch, or in an act of real bravery, show up at the office? My guess is “normal” doesn’t return anywhere near as fast as it vanished.

Social distancing isn’t all that unusual at my house. The nearest neighbors are a quarter-mile away, and they aren’t here very often. Going a few days without seeing anybody is kind of normal. But somehow this seems abnormal, partly because I’m not going into town except for the occasional grocery run. Home Depot is distant memory, though this time of year, when I’m gearing up for the summer on the ranch, it would be typical to be there several times a week.

I knew I was in trouble when the most exciting event of the whole week was emptying the Roomba and combing the dog hair out of the brushes. At times like this, it doesn’t get any better than that.

For a while, my brother was having problems with the heating system in his house. It’s a vacation home, and he gets alerts on his phone that the heat is off. So he’d call me, and I’d go over there and reboot the system. It would run for a couple of days and then quit. One day, the weather was bad enough I decided to drive over. It had been so long since I had started the car that the battery was nearly dead.

But he got the heat fixed, and that social outlet is gone.

There was a trip to the hardware store. The drive chain in the snow blower broke, and I needed a new connector link. Of course the only reason it broke was that I was bored and was clearing snow from places that hadn’t been cleared all winter. The snow blower choked on frozen horse poop buried in the snow. Anyway, the trip to the hardware store was a great adventure. Actual commerce. It was the first $4.65 I’d spent in about 10 days. I’d forgotten how it worked. There is still life going on out there, though things seemed pretty slow.

When this all started, I went on a house cleaning binge. This place has never been so clean and organized. I vacuumed under furniture that hasn’t been moved in longer than I want to admit in print. Then, after a couple of weeks of being home, actually cooking, things began to decline. The mud around here is about knee-deep, and every walk with the dogs results in a change of clothes (and another Roomba cycle). The laundry is piling up, both clean and dirty. In the space of a couple of weeks, the house has gone from that Martha Stewart shine to an episode of “Hoarders.” So I guess I’ve been flattening that curve.

The dogs seem to think that the only reason I’m home is to play with them. They want constant attention. The marmots came out of hibernation this week, and you’d think that a herd of marmots in the yard would provide all the entertainment the dogs would need. But that’s not enough. The Aussie shepherd isn’t happy unless his nose is touching me. The Lab thinks he needs to be fed every couple of hours. A little more social distance from them would be OK.

The abruptness of all of this is something most of us have never experienced. Hundreds of people in our community had perfectly reliable jobs and income one day, and were without the next. The impact is huge. The new legislation that is supposed to backstop some of that will start working pretty quickly, but meaningful replacement of a paycheck that isn’t otherwise coming will take a couple of weeks. We’re all supposed to get a check for $1,200 from the feds. That, too, will be a while in coming. For a whole lot of people in our community, it’s really unneeded. And for another big chunk of the community, it’s the difference between buying food and diapers or not.

If that money is essential to your household, great. Spend it quickly and locally. That’s what’s it’s supposed to accomplish. But if it doesn’t really make much difference in your household situation, pass it on to people who are in dire straits. The Christian Center of Park City and the Park City Community Foundation are at ground zero for people in free-fall. They need it more than me. Give what you can.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.

Guest editorial: Park City superintendent says unsung heroes are keeping students engaged

Over the past couple of weeks as our community and schools have grappled with the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen countless school employees put aside their own concerns and focus on the needs of students and families first. They are among the many true heroes of these times, and we owe them our utmost respect and gratitude.

Food service workers, custodians, technology staff, teachers, coaches, social workers, education support personnel, preschool educators, maintenance staff, administrators and a host of other employees have come together as a community to join and support parents in ensuring that students remain safe and continue to thrive in these challenging times.

I recently saw our community at its best at Ecker Hill Middle School and Treasure Mountain Junior High food distribution sites. I saw smiling students who were able to exchange hand waves and smiles with their friends, and an “air-hug” and a meal from their cafeteria staff, custodians, teachers and principals.

I saw caring and grateful parents who were thankful for a few minutes outside, and appreciative that they have a place to go to connect with other compassionate people in this time of uncertainty. I witnessed joy on the faces of the school staff who were buoyed by a sense of purpose and the knowledge that they continue to make a difference in the lives of their students.

Educators, with little notice, used their own ingenuity to redesign what teaching and learning look like in this new environment, literally over a matter of days! Teachers and teams of curriculum staff are working tirelessly right now to implement a rollout of distance learning for students and parents. And educators are working to maintain connections to their learners.

Our district will work to every extent possible to provide students with special needs supports, albeit through non-traditional technologies and approaches.

Our expectation is that students will continue to stay connected to their classroom and their teachers through the use of technology and online learning. This transition is not only important for education continuity, but also for the social and emotional support and connectedness it provides.

Our school district is working with a sense of urgency to bring educational normalcy back to students and families.

The form of education may change radically over the next several weeks or months; however, the need to provide an excellent education experience for our children remains constant.

Everyone in Summit County should feel proud of the prioritization of essential services to our children during this pandemic. This will truly define us as a community. Kudos to our firefighters, law enforcement, health care professionals, grocery workers, gas station attendants, truckers and so many others that continue to make it possible for us to operate remotely.

My greatest hope is that our community rallies behind our commitment and shared efforts to make sure our students continue to feel safe, learn and thrive. We do not know when school will return to on-site learning and we are planning for every eventuality.

In the meantime, all of us can take this opportunity to reflect, to come together and help our community rise above the fear. Education has always been a path out of troubled times, and I hail the unsung heroes — the education community, parents and students, who are united in our commitment to children.

Crystal balls are in short supply, yet resourcefulness, grit and courage and love are not. I know that because I have seen those qualities firsthand over the past several weeks, and I know in my heart that they will continue to guide us in the months ahead.

Park City family creates kid-friendly how-to cooking videos during COVID-19 shutdown

The three children of Park City resident Alexis Taylor, known to the world as food blogger Key Lime Lexi, have helped their mom expand her focus during the COVID-19 shutdown with a new cooking video series called Key Lime Kids.

The series currently features seven videos, with more being edited, and they can be found by going to YouTube and searching “Key Lime Kids.”.

In each of the videos, which are recorded by Alexis’ husband Justin, the Taylor children — Lucy, 12; Dylan, 10; and Miles, 7, who all attend Weilenmann School of Discovery — demonstrate a different cooking skill geared towards children their ages and make a dish that uses that skill, Alexis said.

“When we prepare what we want to cook, we decide what skill we can focus on,” she said. “The kids already have a list of ideas of what they want to make, and sometimes we switch around when someone wants to do different ones.”

Some of the skills include pounding chicken with a meat mallet, which was something Miles did when making chicken schnitzel; using a double boiler to melt milk chocolate for brownies, one of Dylan’s favorite foods; and cutting butter into flour, which Lucy demonstrated in a video that will be released soon.

After they decide on a skill, Alexis and the children go through the recipes.

“We try like 100 times on a recipe and then do it over until we can’t mess up,” Dylan said. “Then my dad does all the editing when it’s done.”

Justin shoots two or three videos in one day, and then releases them every two or three days.

“These are short five- or six-minute videos that encourage parents to do a fun activity with their families while everybody is at home working or doing school work,” he said.

In addition to showing the proper way to carry out the skills, the videos also demonstrate how to safely use the different kitchen utensils and appliances, Alexis said.

“When we’re out there showing people different cooking techniques and demonstrating recipes, we definitely want to make sure we show them how to do them in ways that no one gets hurt,” she said. “We urge parental supervision and want the parents or adults to get involved with their kids. Then we leave it up to the adults to judge what the kids are capable of depending on their ages and abilities.”

The idea for Key Lime Kids came up, fittingly, when the Taylors were eating dinner as some of Summit County’s COVID-19 restrictions were announced, Alexis said.

“We were discussing how life was going to change and we were trying to figure out what we could do that would be fun for people to do,” Alexis said. “We wanted to share some fun, educational activities the kids and I have been doing since they were able to cook with me in the kitchen.”

Miles, who loves sushi, has been on a salad kick the past few days, according to Alexis.

“Every day, the kids make their own lunches,” she said. “I put things out, and they assemble what they want to eat, and Miles has even been making his own dressing. Many people buy bottled salad dressing, and don’t know how easy it is to make their own salad dressing.”

Lucy, who loves potatoes and anchovy toast, thinks it’s a good idea for children her age and younger to learn how to cook.

“It’s like riding a bike or learning how to ski,”she said. “It’s better to learn when you’re a kid, because it gets harder to learn when you’re older,” she said.

Lucy has also emailed different schools around the country and has told administrators about the videos.

“I’ve told them they can use our videos as part of their curriculums,” she said.

In addition to making the Key Lime Kids videos, the family uses dinner time to take culinary trips around the world, Alexis said.

“We had Spanish tapas the other night, and we did an Indian meal the other night,” she said. “We’ve also made Sicilian food.”

During those dinners, the Taylor children dressed up in the clothes of the different countries.

“We do this because we want to keep the dinners interesting and have some fun around the house,” Alexis said. “Plus, I noticed when kids make things themselves, they are more willing to try different foods and branch out.”

Cooking is a skill that anyone can do, Alexis said.

“It’s a way to expose your kids to different foods, but it’s also a skill you can learn and build upon and have for the rest of our life,” she said.

Summit County economic experts share bleak predictions including estimated job loss of nearly 10,000

Nearly 9,500 jobs and $369 million in earnings.

That’s what Summit County’s economy stands to lose over the next 18 months as a result of the coronavirus in the most optimistic of the three scenarios presented to the County Council Wednesday by the county’s two highest-ranking economic experts.

Jeff Jones, the county’s economic development director, noted that scenario could change with good news about progress in the fight against the global pandemic.

But Jones estimated around 7,000 jobs were lost almost immediately as the economy ground to a halt in March, and another 2,000 jobs or so are likely to vanish in a second wave.

The losses represent about 1/3 of the county’s total 31,500 jobs.

“I wish I had better news,” he said.

Jones predicted the county could lose about $500 million in total earnings and $780 million from its Gross Regional Product as a result of the pandemic, while Chief Financial Officer Matt Leavitt estimated that, using Jones’ job-loss numbers, the county could see a $2.7 million reduction in sales and use tax annually.

Jones predicted county earnings would revert to 2014/2015 levels, while the total Gross Regional Product would approach 2016/2017 levels, drops of 23% and 22%, respectively.

Jones’ models range from what he sees as a reasonable best case, in which 80% of hospitality jobs are lost, to the worst case, in which 90% of hospitality jobs are lost along with 30% of retail jobs. In the latter scenario, the county could see a contraction of 11,407 jobs and a $442 million hit to earnings.

Normally, the economy sheds around 5,000 jobs during the shoulder season, with seasonal layoffs starting in early March and continuing until slowly reversing course in May. Jones said it appears unlikely the normal hiring process will begin this year.

Jones also shared a metric called an economic vulnerability index from a third-party economics and analytics firm.

Of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, Summit County has the 28th highest vulnerability index, just behind Pitkin County, Colorado, home to Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort.

“The COVID-19 Vulnerability Index is a measurement of the negative impact that the coronavirus crisis can have on employment based upon a region’s mix of industries,” Jones wrote in a staff report. “For example, accommodation and food services are projected to lose more jobs as a result of the coronavirus compared to utilities and healthcare.”

The index does not take into account infection rate or the government response to the pandemic, Jones said. Summit County has one of the highest infection rates in the state and the county government has effectively shuttered the area economy.

Summit County stands to lose more than twice the jobs as the national average, according to data presented by Jones from Chmura Economics and Analytics and JobsEQ.

All of this adds up to a bleak picture for both private and public sectors.

Leavitt offered the council historical context from the Great Recession while noting the two crises are different, especially in how immediate the economic shutdown has been in 2020. Recessions, by their definition, can take six months before governments realize they’re happening and start to react.

The recession hit the county for approximately 18 months, Leavitt said, from the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2010. But it wasn’t until five years after its onset, in 2012 and 2013, that revenues began to return to pre-recession levels.

In that period, Leavitt estimated the county lost $7.1 million in sales taxes.

In a staff report, Leavitt wrote that there are indications the COVID-19 economic crisis may be worse than the 2008 recession.

Additionally, Leavitt indicated expenses could increase as counties grapple with the pandemic. Respondents to a survey sent to an association of local government finance officials indicated they anticipated local governments and agencies would spend 1%-3% of their operating budgets within the first six months of the crisis. For Summit County, that’s $600,000 to $1.8 million.

He said the county has tried to ensure the Health Department’s funding is not reliant on sales tax revenues, which might be susceptible to a situation like this pandemic.

According to his report, county functions supported by sales tax revenues include public safety, public works, elected officials, human resources, information technology and facilities.

County Manager Tom Fisher said the county is already considering belt-tightening measures and will present recommendations to the council Wednesday.

Fisher has instituted a hiring freeze except for essential services and indicated he was looking at each opening carefully.

He has not considered furloughing or laying off employees, he said, options he will seek to avoid.

The county employs a total of about 380 people in a given year among seasonal, full-time and part-time positions, Fisher said.

He said he would be carefully reviewing compensation increases including merit raises, cost-of-living adjustments and 401k matching as potential areas for savings.

Councilors also suggested capital projects might need to be delayed, though they did not go into specifics.

Sundance exploring options if COVID-19 restrictions continue but hopeful 2021 film festival will be held in Park City

Although the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is more than nine months away, Sundance Institute is keeping close tabs on the ever-changing COVID-19 protocols.

The institute is already discussing options If COVID-19 restrictions extend and do affect the festival. One of those options is temporarily moving the event to a full digital platform, according to Betsy Wallace, Sundance’s managing director and chief financial officer.

“We are looking at (that) because our audiences and artists are worldwide,” she said. “We want to make sure we continue to reach everyone the best we can. It’s something we’re thinking about, but not something we would want to have occur. We want (the festival) to be a live festival.”

Still, Sundance has already taken action and postponed Sundance Film Festival London and Sundance Film Festival Hong Kong, which were originally scheduled for May and September, respectively, and Wallace said the institute is preparing to make any necessary adjustments to the Utah festival, which is scheduled for Jan. 21-31, 2021, in Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance Resort.

“We’re planning as if the (Utah) festival is going to move forward in a live atmosphere,” Wallace said. “It may end up being slightly pared down, but it’s certainly planned to be active the way we normally handle our festivals, unless we see something else that happens with COVID in three or four months. We are just trying to make sure we keep in mind public safety and public health and doing these things at the right time.”

Digital platforms are nothing new to Tara Hein-Phillips, Sundance Institute’s chief product officer, who said the nonprofit is in the process of transitioning Sundance’s 2020 summer labs to the Institute’s digital platform, Sundance Co//ab.

“Luckily for us, we have Sundance Co//ab that we launched just over a year ago, so we already have a space where people can come together in live, online environments all year for small and large events,” she said. “While nothing can replace in-person and community gatherings, there has been a lot of gratitude from those artists that we bring together from all over the world (through the platform) almost every day.”

One live program, which covered making and launching a short film, was held on Friday, March 20,

The event was originally planned for an audience of 120 in San Jose, California, but reached more than 1,600 people globally through its online iteration, according to a Sundance Institute press release.

There are a few labs, such as the Film Music and Sound Design, and Composers Labs, that are taking longer to adapt for a digital presentation, Hein-Phillips said.

“Having access to a full orchestra will be a little more challenging online,” she said. “We’re imagining which aspects of those labs can happen when you can’t bring in a 250-piece orchestra (to work with).”

Even some of the directors’ labs, which have featured hands-on sessions with equipment and mentoring since 1981, have been changed significantly for the time being, Hein-Phillips said.

With the COVID-19 restrictions, these labs have been moved online, and artists have had to adapt to the lack of in-person training on equipment and getting feedback only on finished results, she said.

Still, other smaller webinars, member question-and-answer gatherings and masterclasses have been adapted nearly seamlessly, according to Hein-Phillips.

Sundance has also opened these Co//ab sessions, which were originally available to paid Institute members, to anyone at no cost, she said.

With all the work going into digital transitioning, the plan is for the labs to return to in-person programs in Utah once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, according to Hein-Phillips.

“We wanted to make this available to the widest groups of artists, because we know our artists need support right now,” she said.

As part of providing support, Sundance Institute has expanded an initiative it has developed with the National Endowment of the Arts, Hein-Phillips said.

“In terms of Co//ab, we’ve worked with the National Endowment for the Arts to make their sustainability resources available to our artistic community, and we will add more resources monthly,” she said. “It will be incredibly valuable at a time like this when artists are seeking resources about how to sustain their careers. We were happy to do our part for our artists. We would obviously love to do more, and we are planning more programming.”

Sundance Institute is finalizing the aspects about this coalition, and more information will come out in the next couple of weeks, according to Sundance Institute spokesman Jason Berger.

In the meanwhile, planning for the 2021 festival continues, said Wallace.

“I think having the festival here in Utah is part of the reason why it’s been so successful,” she said. “We have such a great relationship with the state of Utah, Park City, Summit County, and our residents. And for me the relationship has been remarkable.”

For information, visit sundance.org.

Park Record debuts new online ‘bulletin board’ for businesses, Summit County residents

In what we hope will be a vital resource for readers and the Park City business community while COVID-19-related restrictions remain in place in Summit County, The Park Record, in partnership with the Park City Chamber/Bureau, has rolled out a new feature on parkrecord.com.

Building on the online list of restaurants providing curbside service that we have continually updated in recent weeks, we are now offering a community “bulletin board” that will serve as a hub for information about businesses in the Park City area as they adapt to the circumstances brought on by the coronavirus. Broadening the scope beyond restaurants, the bulletin board will include relevant information about all kinds of businesses, from financial institutions to grocery stores to child care facilities.

The free bulletin board can be found by visiting parkrecord.com and navigating to a tile displaying the following: “Click here to see who in Park City is open for business.”

While we have populated it with information The Park Record has already gathered about establishments that remain open for business, the tool is designed to allow businesses themselves to help us make it more exhaustive. We encourage all businesses to submit their own information so customers can learn about their hours and services in the coming weeks. Importantly, businesses can update the information as their situations change.

With the participation of the business community, the bulletin board will be the top resource for Summit County residents to learn how they can patronize local businesses during these unprecedented times. For questions or other information, please contact editor@parkrecord.com or jdempsey@parkrecord.com.

Bored at home? Park City Museum asks for photo submissions of Parkites and visitors enjoying winter over the years.

Although the Park City Museum doors are closed due to COVID-19, research coordinator Dalton Gackle is tapping local residents and visitors to help curate a digital exhibit.

“I’m asking people to submit photos of themselves, their relatives or ancestors participating in winter activities in Park City,” Gackle said. “I’m also asking them to provide some information about the photos like who is in it and when the photos were taken. People submitting an image of relatives might give more of a description with a small story about what was happening, while people submitting an image of themselves or their family might give a more full story of the experience.”

The submission deadline is Thursday, April 17, and the exhibit is scheduled to open on Monday, April 20. Photos and descriptions can be emailed to research@parkcityhistory.org.

The original deadline was April 8, but the museum extended the date so local students could participate during their spring break, Gackle said.

“This could also be a fun mini family history project for teachers to give their students or for parents to help interest their kids in history,” he said.

Gackle will accept any size photo, and he will format them into the right size for the digital platform.

“The photos will make up a digital version of a live exhibit and feature panels, but they will be formatted like an Instagram post,” Gackle said.

The photos will also go on Facebook as an album, though they will post individually on Instagram, he said.

“The plan will eventually include putting these photos on our website,” Gackle said.

So far, a majority of the submissions have been photographs that were taken in the past few years.

“We’re also looking for some historic photos as well,” Gackle said. “We’ve been a ski town since the 1960s, and locals have been skiing here and building snowmen or snowshoeing way before that.”

Gackle and Hannah Howard, the museum’s assistant, came up with the idea of recruiting the public to curate a physical exhibit back in February.

“We had the idea to engage visitors and local residents with the museum on a different level,” he said. “We thought it would be fun for them to contribute, and even participate in panels to talk about how it felt to have a personal attachment to the exhibit.”

Unfortunately, the idea was sabotaged by COVID-19 and the increased restrictions officials have put in place to combat it.

“Since no one can come into the museum now, we felt this would be a good time to bring the idea back and provide something fun and light for people to do while they are stuck at home during this scary and uncertain time,” Gackle said.

In addition to accepting photo submissions for the exhibit, Gackle is happy to help the public with other research projects.

“A lot of parents are homeschooling, and we want them to know that we are still here as a resource, even though our lights are out,” he said.

For research information, email Gackle or education director Diane Knispel at education@parkcityhistory.org.

The museum’s research department isn’t the only thing active, said executive director Sandra Morrison.

“All our usual online programs are available,” she said in an email. “(People can) check out our website to read our weekly ‘Way We Were’ column, and catch up on those (they’ve) missed over the past year, view a video tour of the museum, order historic images from our vast collection of historic photographs or research Park City history from our digital Park Record newspaper collection.”

Peak of new cases in Summit County could come in two weeks, but health officials want better data

Summit County’s highest-ranking public health official says that models indicate the peak of new local cases of COVID-19 will likely hit in about two weeks and that the growth in the number of cases in Summit County, while steady, appears to be linear rather than exponential.

But Health Director Rich Bullough stressed that much remains unknown and that there is not enough testing to yield the kind of comprehensive data that is crucial for health officials seeking to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“We don’t have a real sense, I don’t believe, of really how widespread this is in the community,” Bullough said. “Until we can begin to sample to a level where we see a broader, more representative sample of our community, then I think we’re still going to be asking questions of the data.”

Bullough’s three public health orders have effectively shuttered the local economy in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly pandemic. Officials have said the timeline for transitioning back into a functioning economy by loosening mandated restrictions will be determined largely by how the outbreak progresses locally.

Bullough said he is hopeful the peak of the number of daily new cases will hit in about two weeks, and noted the total number of cases might continue to increase for a year or more even as the rate of spread slows.

As of Friday, there were 222 confirmed cases among Summit County residents, according to the Utah Department of Health, a number that no longer includes the number of infected visitors to the county. Statewide, seven people have died, while 1,246 have tested positive for COVID-19. A dozen people with the disease in Summit County had been hospitalized, up from 11 Thursday.

State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn said earlier in the week that there was some evidence the disease’s growth in Utah may be slowing, but Bullough said the lack of sufficient data in Summit County and a small sample size mean it isn’t clear whether the curve is flattening in the county.

“We have enough information to be hopeful. What we’re seeing is not discouraging, but we’re not to the point of being able to say, ‘OK, what we’re doing is really having a big impact in Summit County,’” Bullough said. “But we have every reason to believe it is. Social distancing works, stay-at-home orders work. And I think as we’ve looked around — people are taking this to heart.”

Health director: Now is the time to hunker down

Health Director Rich Bullough said the growth in cases of COVID-19 in Summit County appears to be linear and not exponential, good news as the county braces for a peak that may still be two weeks away.

Bullough said it remains critical for people to take social distancing and hygiene measures seriously to slow the spread of the pandemic.

“I think we’re at a time of transition right now — people get bored,” Bullough said. “Now is the time I think we all need to remind ourselves that we need to hunker down, we can’t ease up. This is a critical time in our curve, it’s a critical time in trying to flatten that curve.”

Bullough reiterated the importance of social distancing — staying at least 6 feet away from others when out in public — and washing hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

He also advised people to limit contact with anyone not in their household.

“We encourage people (to) keep it within your family,” Bullough said. “Limit exposure severely to new people, people that you don’t know where they’ve been.”

He acknowledged that the restrictions on gatherings have upended the ways people socialize, and encouraged people to find a way to persevere.

“Also, though, live your life,” Bullough said. “We’re going into a stretch of beautiful weather — get outside, go on a walk. Just do it in a smart way.”

Bullough noted that the picture will continue to come into focus as increased testing offers more data. Between 20% and 30% of the tests in Summit County have come back positive for COVID-19, Bullough said, compared to a rate closer to 5% statewide. That indicates that only the sickest are being tested, Bullough said, and that the current information doesn’t accurately represent the disease’s progression through the community. A swing in new cases from nine on Tuesday to 23 on Thursday could indicate increased spread or something less sinister, Bullough said, like the sudden clearing of a backlog at a lab.

The first order curtailing businesses came in mid-March, as the first case of community spread hit the county. The latest, issued March 25, was a joint public health order mandating residents stay at home unless it is essential to venture out. It was also signed by the Summit County Council and county manager and endorsed by the mayors in Summit County’s six municipalities, as well as the Board of Health.

Questions remain about how long the orders will need to be in place and, consequently, how long the local economy will continue to lie dormant.

County Manager Tom Fisher has indicated that evaluating the public health orders is squarely a Health Department responsibility. Bullough said his staff is in the process of determining the criteria to evaluate how and when to transition from the more urgent phase of the outbreak response to a more stable one for both residents and businesses.

“We can’t be in this mode — this urgent mode we’re in right now — forever, and we have to identify how it is and what it is that allows us to transition out,” he said. “As we begin to see numbers ease, what is a logical way to allow businesses to begin to re-engage communities?”

The public health orders were set to be reevaluated within a month of their effective dates, and officials have said they would start reviewing most within two weeks. The first public health order was effective March 12 but was re-evaluated within days and was quickly clarified in response to questions from businesses and community members, Bullough said.

The stay-at-home order arose out of revisions to the first two public health orders and from discussions involving high-level Health Department officials, the county manager, the deputy county manager, the local emergency managers and attorneys, Bullough said. The conversation was then broadened to include elected officials from the county, Park City and the five other municipalities, as well as the Board of Health, Bullough said.

In weighing potential adjustments of the stay-at-home order, Bullough said the Health Department is considering factors like the rate at which the virus is spreading and the capacity of local health care systems.

He said the team considering the indicators includes clinical experts, a communicable and infectious disease expert and those with economic expertise.

“Our obligation here is to protect our health system and our resources for residents,” Bullough said. “None of us have done this before and … when I say none of us, I mean literally none of us in public health or in the business sector has dealt with a global pandemic of this scale. And so we’re learning along the way.”

For second straight year, Park Record contest asks ‘Who has the cutest pet in Park City?’

Local pet owners who are trying to find things to do during the COVID-19 shutdown can show off their cuddly fur babies by entering The Park Record’s second-annual Cutest Pet Photo Contest.

Submissions to the event, which is sponsored by Park City Animal Clinic and Julie Hopkins of Park City Keller Williams Real Estate, are currently being accepted through Tuesday, April 14, at parkrecord.com/cutestpet.

Prizes include tickets to Egyptian Theatre performances, a Park Record backpack and $500 in gift certificates for Park City Animal Clinic and Park City Pet Resort services.

The idea to host the contest for a second straight year is to give local residents something fun to do while staying at home, said Jessica Burlacu, Park Record advertising assistant.

“With everyone cooped up in their homes right now, parents, children and pets are all in need of a little something to lift their spirits,” she said. “So we thought the timing was right for another cutest pet contest. I mean, there’s nothing much better at lifting spirits than cute animals, right?”

A fun perk, Burlacu said, is that the contest is something for families to do together. Last year, she and her daughter enjoyed looking at the new submissions each day.

“This is really my favorite part — every day my daughter and I would check out the newly added photos,” she said.

After the deadline for submissions, the public will be allowed to vote, said Val Deming Spung, Park Record ad director. The voting period will run from April 15-26.

“People can submit photos of as many pets as they want, but once the voting starts, they have to choose only one photo they want to be voted on,” she said. “Once all the votes are tallied, we will announce the winner.”