Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox compared fighting COVID-19 to building an airplane while flying it — which in my estimation is much better than sitting on the ground debating where to begin the daunting process of assembling a plane. Three new “planes” took flight in Utah today — child-care for first responders, small loans offered by the state of Utah for businesses under 50 employees, and www.UtahTest.com which will launch this week to facilitate testing availability and results. In addition, every conference call today talked about ramping up testing to 7,000+ per day within the next week. In a way, it seems like this pandemic is taking forever and that things are moving slowly. But keep in mind our first case of coronavirus in Utah was on March 6. MARCH 6th!! That was 25 days ago. Many positive actions have been taken since that Friday night. (This post and all previous updates available at https://utahvalley360.com/)
DATA: Utah now has 806 positive cases of COVID-19, based on 16,003 tests. In a world of uncertainty, Utah has stayed remarkably steady the past two weeks with 5 percent of tests coming back positive. We’ve also had four deaths in this state as a result of COVID-19, the most notable being Robert Garff who is a former Speaker of the House in Utah and key leader for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Utah County is holding steady as having the fourth highest number of cases (despite being the second most populous county). Salt Lake County leads the state with 363, followed by Summit County with 176, Davis County Is third with 77, and Utah County has 58.
BY THE NUMBERS: My last update (early Saturday morning) reported 480 cases. A few hours later, Utah reported an additional 122 positive tests. On Sunday at 1 p.m., Utah reported an additional 117 cases. And today at 1 p.m. (Monday, March 30th) we reported an additional 87 cases for a cumulative total of 806. So if you’re looking for a bright side, we had fewer new cases today than we’ve had in previous days. (Note: There is a 48-hour-ish lag between tests being taken and results being reported.)
LET’S TAKE CARE OF THE KIDS: Today Utah launched “One Utah Child Care,” which provides free child care throughout the state for children of first-responders. “With the closure of schools and child-care businesses, the state recognized an increased need but lack of access to child care,” LG Cox said. These childcare resources will be open M-F from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. For info on both RECEIVING and PROVIDING childcare as part of this program, visit www.jobs.utah.gov/covid19
UTAH TO THE RESCUE: Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (and Utah County superstar) announced an additional loan program for Utah companies. The state has allocated $8 million from repurposed state economic funds for these loans geared to companies with 50 or fewer employees. The loans range from $5,000 to $20,000 with 0 percent interest for up to 60 months. Loan payments will not be required for the first 12 months of the loan, and the loans cannot exceed three months of operating expenses. Applications open Tuesday at 8 a.m., and are designed to build a bridge for small companies to get to the money coming from the SBA. More info at https://business.utah.gov/utah-leads-together-small-busine…/
HOW IT IS SPREADING: Dr. Angela Dunn, Utah’s epidemiologist, says we have an 8 percent hospitalization rate for COVID-19 cases. Good news? That rate is low compared to other states. Bad news? At our current rate, we will still overwhelm our healthcare system in coming weeks. (Gov. Herbert said today Utah has 512 ICU beds, which experts are saying will not be enough if trends continue.) Also, Dr. Dunn shared that only 10 percent of cases in Utah come from “community spread.” This means that in 90 percent of the cases, the person’s diagnosis can be explained by travel or by exposure to a known case of COVID-19 case. Only 10 percent of diagnoses have the patient saying, “I have no idea where I got this virus.”
GOT TO GET BELOW ONE: In China, they were reporting that 3.8 people were infected, on average, by each person testing positive for COVID-19. In the United States, we’re seeing 2-2.5 people infected by each positive COVID-19 case. Anywhere above a 1 means the disease is still growing. To be on the decline, we need to ensure each COVID-19 case is infecting less than one person. This is the math that will beat this disease. To get there, we need massive testing, tracing of anyone in close contact with a COVID-19 case, and then isolation for anyone with the virus.
HELLO, HERBERT: Gov. Gary Herbert held his first daily briefing for the state today just after 1 p.m. Wearing a blue jacket, gray pants and a red tie … it seemed as if it was business as usual. But instead of touting Utah’s latest “Best Place To Work” designation, Gov. Herbert was reiterating that we as a state are in the Urgent phase of his three-part strategy in “Utah Leads Together,” which includes the Urgent Phase, Stabilization Phase, and Recovery Phase. “The next two weeks are critical,” Gov. Herbert said. “Everybody has a role to play, and everybody needs to be engaged. I know this is an inconvenience, and I know we are social animals. But commit yourself to stay home.”
NOT GONNA GET SPECIFIC: Gov. Herbert once again stopped short of identifying which businesses were essential and should remain open. “Essential is in the eye of the business,” he said. “We have identified parameters, and we expect those parameters to be met.” Read "Stay Safe, Stay Home" for more details on his two-week directive.
YOUNG PEOPLE, WE NEED YOU: Gov. Herbert emphasized that the youth are a huge factor in our state's success — or failure. “For our teenagers, this is a bigger challenge than we may realize. Some young people think they’re invincible and can’t catch coronavirus. That’s not true.” In fact, he shared that 15 percent of confirmed cases are under 24 years of age. And 42 percent of confirmed cases are ages 25-44. He said 32 percent are ages 45-64. And only 13 percent of confirmed cases are over age 65. (Note: I submitted a question to ask if these are Utah numbers or national numbers, but I didn't get an answer.)
DISASTER AREA: Utah has been declared a disaster area, and as such … businesses are eligible for EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loans). These loans do have to be paid back with an interest rate of 3.75 percent, but approved applicants can get a quick $10,000 that does not have to be repaid. See the SBA for more info.
LOANS BECOME GRANTS: Later this week, banks will be ready to help companies access the Paycheck Protection Program, which is a loan that can become a grant for businesses with less than 500 employees. This program covers 2.5X a company's average monthly payroll. Sen. Romney told Silicon Slopes that unfortunately, companies owned by venture firms or private equity firms cannot get the loans/grants from the federal government. More details are coming out from the regulators this week. But don't wait! Sen. Romney said there won't be enough money to meet the demand.
FEDERAL LEADERSHIP? Sen. Romney, who has experience in crisis management — including helping save the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and also turning around a large company on the brink of bankruptcy — says that when he’s leading his way through a crisis, he divides the problems into tasks. For example, if he was leading the crisis for our nation, he would want someone in charge of PPE, someone in charge of ventilators, another person over finding tents for makeshift hospitals, etc. “I hear governors around the country saying they all need more ventilators, and Washington is telling them to go out and get their own. But someone on the federal level needs to coordinate efforts and help decide who is going to get ventilators and how many. That may be happening, but I just don’t see that kind of national coordination yet."
LET'S STILL HAVE A HAPPY HOUR: Jeremy Andrus of Traeger Grills told Silicon Slopes that times like these are when leaders create their legacy. “When everything is going right, anyone can lead an organization,” he said. “But being able to make the right decisions quickly with a lens on people is when leaders earn their money.” Jeremy is communicating a voice of confidence to his team. “When you don’t communicate, people assume the worst. Communication creates trust and unity.” Last Friday, he held a virtual Happy Hour where his team told stories, laughed, toasted, held babies and didn’t talk about work. “We are amplifying anything that makes us feel connected," he shared.
NEW SITE!: This week, www.UtahTest.com will be launching and will augment the state’s efforts to accelerate testing availability and information. The earthquake took away some testing capabilities in the state due to damage in labs, and Silicon Slopes aims to pick up the slack with this website and other efforts. Watch for this in the next couple of days.
UNEMPLOYMENT: In addition to the $1,200 check coming to each adult who earns $75,000 or less, unemployment funds have also been dramatically increased. In Utah, unemployment has gone from approximately $350 per week to $950 per week.
THE STORIES WE WILL TELL: When COVID-19 is behind us and we’re telling our children stories, we need to remember to tell them that Utah companies stepped up and got creative to manufacture PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), testing kits, etc. Dave Elkington, for example, grew InsideSales.com and is now fully engaged in the fight against coronavirus. People are awesome.
Lastly, here's my favorite quote of the day by Sen. Romney: “It’s a frightful time for a lot of folks, but we’ve been through difficult times as a state before. We're coming together in a way that’s consistent with our heritage as a pioneer people."
IF YOU CAN'T GET ENOUGH:
Article about how Utah battled another crisis together: https://www.deseret.com/…/utah-covid-response-economy-bounc…
Watch this webinar tomorrow from Utah’s own Brock Blake about the stimulus package (Utah Valley BusinessQ Magazine named him the Entrepreneur of the Year in Spring 2020 edition) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrRPXtJvvM