Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday that Utah’s economy could be in “completely open recovery mode in the next few weeks.”
While he seemed to walk that back a few moments later in his televised afternoon press conference, Herbert said he was very optimistic. For example, by Friday, it is hoped that Wasatch and Summit counties will move from “orange” to “yellow.” That leaves Grand County and Salt Lake City and West Valley City still in the “orange” risk avert classification -- the rest of Utah in “yellow.”
And he declined to give a timeline on going to “green,” or completely open with few restrictions for folks that are not at-risk -- those over 60 years old or older, or those with underlying physical problems.
He said seven new firms have said they are planning to expand in Utah, bringing in more than 3,300 good jobs.
Herbert announced that now Utah is moving to Utahns Together 3.0 -- which can be read in its full at coronavirus.utah.gov.
Utah’s unemployment rate is now at 9.6 percent, which is a body-blow, said Natalie Gochnour, head of the Kem Gardner Policy Institute at the U. of U., and one of the leaders in Herbert’s effort of economic recovery.
While as bad as that is, she said, it is much better than the nation’s unemployment of over 21 percent.
Some experts believe that Utah jobs will start GROWING again in 30 to 60 days. Yet 100,000-to-200,000 unemployed Utahns must get back to work quickly, said Gochnour.
3.0 has several aspects of doing that, including:
-- Those that have been furloughed, who have jobs waiting for them from their employers when they can get open again, make up 70 percent of those unemployed and can be put back to work quickly.
-- Getting folks back to work fast will be targeted by industry, geography and occupation.
-- Those who have been laid off, and their previous jobs may not be back soon, investments must be made, like rather quick training resulting in short-term certificates and technical skills.
-- Government and private industry construction-ready projects must be started. These include road and water projects, outdoor recreation, broadband and others.
-- We need to look at macro-economic trends, the virus is changing the economy long-term, and start working on those areas, like remote work, food security and investments.
Herbert said various groups had listed Utah as one of two states best prepared to recovery economically fast, with Salt Lake City and Provo two cities in the nation that should see rapid job and economic recovery.
But for all that, Utah is not ready to move to complete reopening, or “green,” now.
And responding to a reporter’s question, Herbert said Kaysville city officials, including Mayor Katie Witt, who is running for Congress, need to be careful in holding an open music concert Witt is planning for this weekend.
Herbert said it is not the state’s job to stop that concert, but it should only take place not as some kind of protest but with the proper restrictions and with the approval of the local health department.