Will Utah’s new COVID-19 game plan work?

In last week’s briefing for the public about the coronavirus pandemic, the governor and state health officials announced a revised plan to help bring the current spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations under control. But how effective will the new system be? The answer to that question will be driven by public awareness of the plan, a willingness to follow it, and our knowledge of COVID-19.

The new plan creates a COVID-19 Transmission Index that is transparent and data-driven. It labels counties as having high, moderate or low rates of COVID-19 transmission based on three COVID metrics:

  1.  The 7-day average COVID test positivity rate in the county,
  2.  the 14-day COVID case rates per 100,000 people in the county, and
  3.  the percentage of ICU beds currently being used, both for COVID patients and in total.

There are currently six high-transmission counties, 15 moderate-transmission counties, and eight low-transmission counties. Each transmission category has different public health guidelines or restrictions regarding masks, casual social gatherings, business operations and large public gatherings (e.g., sporting events, musical performances, weddings, etc.).

The immediate policy question about the new plan is: Will it be effective? The answer will depend on several factors:

  1.  Utahns’ knowledge of the actions required by the index,
  2.  Utahns’ willingness to take those actions, and
  3.  the current level of understanding about COVID-19.

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