SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert expressed optimism and praise for the state’s efforts fighting the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference at the state capitol Thursday. The comments were made as officials announced additional help for small business owners.
Gov. Herbert said the last two months has been extraordinary, uncertain and difficult. The state continues to slow the spread of the virus because of social distancing and other regulations.
“This is where you find out the true character of the people and the fact that we have been willing to cooperate and work together in an unprecedented way,” said Gov. Herbert. “I think this has really proven to be the secret ingredient to our success as we do see opportunities now, as we open of the economy to have recovery. It is in our short-term future, as we have gone from red to orange, from high to moderate risk, and I think we’re going to have the opportunity in the next few weeks to go to yellow, light risk, and then finally get into full blown recovery.”
Details were also given about a rental assistance program for small businesses owners. As part of S.B. 3006, the COVID-19 Commercial Rental Assistance Program includes $40 million in commercial property rental assistance. The program is available to any nonprofits, sole proprietors, independent contractors and those who are self-employed that have lost revenue as a result of measures taken to minimize the public’s exposure to COVID-19.
Gov. Herbert said the economy has taken a hit but will hopefully begin making a gradual and steady recovery. He credited state leaders, working together in a united effort to save people’s lives and their livelihood.
“Helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus and save lives this way has required literally thousands of individual decisions, choices and judgement calls. There isn’t any reference book to see what the decision should be, it is learning as we go. The decisions had to be made with little time to spare in an emergency type situation. We couldn’t wait for tomorrow, we needed to make those decisions now.”
Thursday’s press conference was held after the Utah Department of Health confirmed 129 new virus cases, a 2.3 percent growth increase. The numbers showed a total of 5,724 cases within the state, resulting in 476 hospitalizations throughout the outbreak. It is also estimated that 2,640 patients have recovered. Three more deaths were reported, raising the total number of fatalities to 61.
Gov. Herbert said he isn’t alarmed by the higher numbers of virus cases during the past week because it is a result of increased testing. The state’s transmission rate has decreased and the fatality rate is one of the lowest in the nation.
“We see the results of this effort. We are in a good place as a state in comparison with other states in America. We’re at the top of the list. But, let me just emphasize we’re still in the middle of a crisis, this has not gone away. We are fighting a good fight here. I think we are winning but we are still in the middle of a crisis.”
Thursday’s state capitol press conference was held as the Bear River Health Department reported no new cases of the virus in the past day. The total number of cases in northern Utah is 64. There are 45 in Cache County, 19 in Box Elder County and none in Rich County.
Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn explained that a majority of virus cases have been transmitted by family members. They account for 59 percent, compared to 25 percent due to social spread and 5 percent through the workplace.
“As society opens, people are going to have exposure outside of their household members and likely be infected due to people outside of their household,” said Dunn. “That is why it is super important that people stay at home when they are sick, maintain social distance measures when they are able to, and then they are wearing a mask when those social distancing measures are just not possible.”
The Idaho Department of Health continues to report no positive cases of the virus in Franklin, Bear Lake or Oneida counties. There have been a total of 2,158 cases reported and 66 deaths.