Utah state officials have denied a request from the Tooele County Commissioners and the county Health Department to transition into the “green” phase of pandemic recovery because of an increase of cases statewide, predominately in Utah County, on September 18.
“They denied us because of an increase of COVID positive tests,”said Shawn Milne, Tooele County Commissioner. “They are wanting to make sure that the infection rate doesn’t get out of control. We are waiting on an announcement from the Governor’s office.”
If the state doesn’t see another spike, the County Commissioners and the Health Department will be able to reapply in a little less than two weeks, according to Milne.
“We don’t have the same dynamic that is working against us as there was in Utah County where the spike was,” said Milne.
The county is ready to move to the green phase because county officials want businesses and individuals living in the county to have the same opportunity as other already green counties, according to Milne.
Milne said that the Tooele County commissioners have reached out to the mayors of Grantsville, Stockton, and Tooele, as well as the school district and businesses.
Only one business said that they did not want to move into the green phase of recovery, according to Milne.
The county has been in the yellow, or “low risk” phase of the state’s recovery plan since May 15.
Currently, 13 counties throughout Utah have been allowed to move into the green phase.
If the county is allowed to move into the green in two weeks, certain restrictions will be lifted.
“Symptom checks would be encouraged prior to team sport competitions or practices,” said Amy Bate from the health department. “Large gatherings and venues will be allowed with increased hygiene measures, physical distancing, face coverings, and symptom monitoring. Places of worship are encouraged to do the same. All businesses will be open and must take reasonable precautions. Dine-in service will be open with appropriate cleaning and hygiene measures. Employees and employers must follow hygiene guidelines and continue physical distancing in the workplace, wearing face coverings when social distancing is not feasible.”
Moving to the green phase of recovery will not change the health risks associated with COVID-19, according to Dr. John Contreras, deputy director of the county Health Department.
“‘Going Green’ is associated with economic recovery moving towards a stabilization phase,” Contreras said. “This reactivation phase will be successful if residents vigilantly follow public health guidance.”
Tooele County is eligible to move into the green phase of recovery because COVID-19 cases have remained relatively stable during the past 30 days but with the surge of cases in Utah County, everything is on hold for the two weeks.
Hospital capacity in and around the county is able to handle a surge in virus cases if needed, according to Contreras.
However, moving into the green phase will be a slow process, according to Bate.
“As we are all working to slow the spread of COVID-19 finding a new normal will not be instant, like flipping a switch, it will be more like gradually moving a dial,” she said. “Continuing to follow the public health protocols for minimal level of restriction or green will keep the dial moving forward and prevent it from turning back. High-risk individuals are advised to operate under stricter instructions because they are more likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19.”