Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission recommends most of Utah transitions to a smart green risk level

On June 2, the Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission unanimously voted to recommend, after reviewing current, real-time data, adopting modified yellow and a smart green risk phases in the state’s phasedguidelines in the Utah Leads Together Plan. The new phases will allow nearly all Utah businesses the opportunity to activate a plan to open safely and help the economy move forward. 

Last week, the Commission unanimously voted to recommend the governor set a goal to transition the state from yellow to green public health guidance with some regional and individual exceptions by June 5 contingent upon key data indicators supporting such a transition. Specific areas across the state will continue to have the flexibility to easily stay or transition back to higher-risk health guidelines based on real-time data. 

Utah is and will remain in a state of emergency, and the lower risk level does not indicate that our state is back to normal. A smart green risk phase encourages individuals to continue practicing social distancing and wearing a mask in public. Face coverings protect the medically frail, a responsibility of everyone in the state. The Commission encourages individuals to wear a mask as a mark of common respect for the high-risk population. 

COVID-19 cases may continue to rise as the state transitions to lower risk phases. However, the number of cases has proven to be a poor indicator of health risk for all Utahns since 99 percent of individuals who contract COVID-19 recover. Hospitalization is a key factor and Utah has low hospitalization rates. In addition, Utah has one of the lowest fatalities rates in the nation, increased tracing capabilities and COVID-19 testing centers across the state. 

The intent of Stay Safe, Stay Home and everyone following stricter guidelines was to prevent overwhelming hospitals. As of June 2, the intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalization in Utah averaged 61 percent capacity for COVID-19 and non-COVID patients for the past 14 days. ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients have not exceeded 11 percent of total capacity for the last 14 days. Hospital bed utilization rates are a primary indicator of the strain on the state’s healthcare capacity. The criteria is to have ICU hospital bed utilization under 60 percent for 7-14 days.

Spread from known contacts has been at 81 percent for the past two weeks, and 58 percent of known contacts were exposed through a household member. Spread from known contacts remaining above 60 percent, and ideally above 85 percent, is an indicator of stability and low levels of community spread.

The transmission rate in Utah has been below 1.2 for 22 consecutive days. A transmission rate at or near 1:1 for 7-14 consecutive days indicates an adequate level of stability.

The Commission is making data-driven recommendations to protect vulnerable populations and allow the state to prudently transition to open and stay open. The data shows that a majority of Utahns can transition to the lower risk guidelines. However, this does not mean every Utahn should or can transition at the same time. Individuals with comorbidities should continue following stricter guidelines. 

The Commission highly recommends immunocompromised individuals, who are at a higher risk if infected with COVID-19, follow stricter protocols, and exercise all possible caution. 

“We emphasize that green is not pre-pandemic,” said Sen. Dan Hemmert, co-chair of the Commission. “We are still in a state of emergency. Green is a lighter risk level, but it is not a return to normal. While data is indicating Utah can begin transitioning to a lower risk level responsibly, it does not apply to everyone. Those in the high-risk categories should continue to take precautions. Together, we can protect the vulnerable while transitioning.”

“The Commission will continue to review data to safely take our state to a new phase and allow our economy to move forward,” said Jefferson Burton, co-chair of the Commission. “I encourage all Utahns to maintain social distancing, wear face coverings and practice good hygiene that has allowed our state to get to this point.” 

The Commission data-driven recommendations are in consultation with health experts, economic advisors and elected officials. View key factors the Commission is utilizing here