Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that the economic outlook for Utah amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak was quite dour. At the same time, he announced a new initiative on Thursday designed to double Utah’s testing capacity to control the spread of the illness.
“The news is pretty grim,” said Herbert referring to the explosion in unemployment claims they’ve seen recently. “There have been more unemployment claims in the past two weeks than in the entire year of 2019.”
In Utah, 28,560 Utahns filed for unemployment between March 22 and March 28, which was a 46% increase in week over week claims. In raw numbers, nearly 9,000 more Utahns filed for unemployment benefits this week than the week before.
Nationwide, more than 6 million people filed unemployment claims in the last two weeks.
Herbert also unveiled a public/private partnership with several Utah high tech companies to increase testing capacity as well as a new online tool to help identify areas of the state that could become hotspots for coronavirus transmission.
The partnership with Silicon Slopes sets up new testing facilities and asks Utahns to participate in an online questionnaire to determine who needs to be tested and who doesn’t. Eventually, the initiative, known as “Crush the Curve” will double the state’s coronavirus testing capacity to help Utah reach a goal of 7,000 tests per day.
Utahns are asked to visit TestUtah.com and take a 5-minute online assessment about symptoms they’ve been experiencing and whether they’ve come in contact with someone who may be carrying the virus. Respondents who are deemed to be high-risk will be directed to a testing center for further assessment. If they test positive, state officials will use the data to track the spread of the virus.
“If we don’t understand who is sick and where they’re at and what their symptoms are, we can’t get ahead of this,” said David Elkington, founder of InsideSales.com.
“Our objective is to create testing for anybody who has symptoms and who needs it. If we understand if we’re sick or if we’re not sick, we can prevent the spread of the virus,” he continued.
As of Thursday afternoon, Utah reported 1074 cases of coronavirus and 7 deaths from the pandemic.