U takes lead in state’s health and economic recovery plan

At the request of state leaders, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute led the creation of a newly released plan to guide Utah’s efforts in achieving both a health and economic recovery from the coronavirus. The report is called “Utah Leads Together Plan” and has detailed health, economic engagement and assistance information for businesses and residents.

Natalie Gochnour, institute director and associate dean of the David Eccles School of Business, is the policy lead for the economic task force organized to create the plan.

“It was a collaborative endeavor that involved over 100 entities and individuals,” Gochnour said. “It is Utah’s plan to protect lives and livelihoods during a challenging time.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who released the plan during a Zoom press conference on March 24, 2020, described the plan as the “most comprehensive” of any state in the nation.

“Public universities play an essential role during times of crises,” Gochnour said. “In the last few weeks, the University of Utah has provided public health, economic, geological, educational, public policy and other expertise to state decision-makers. This is how we fulfill our University for Utah mission.”

Gochnour said the plan provides Utah businesses and residents with a three-phase approach of measures, recommendations and data. The plan, she said, is considered dynamic in that it will evolve based on testing and the spread of coronavirus in Utah.

The three phases outlined in the plan are:

  1. Urgent: The state’s current situation, which is expected to last eight to 12 weeks from a starting date of March 16, 2020. The focus is on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through strict physical distancing.
  2. Stabilization: Expected to last 10 to14 weeks, with a focus on containing the spread of the virus and laying the groundwork for a complete economic recovery.
  3. Recovery: Expected to last eight to 10 weeks, with a focus on promising medical treatments and restoring economic confidence.

Each phase detailed in the plan includes details about the characteristics and practices of health and economic concerns as well as key public and private solutions. It also includes sections on testing and treatment; staying engaged with the economy through telework and other measures; and resources for small business owners and employees.

“I am very optimistic that this phasing will provide needed certainty and clarity of direction for our state,” Gochnour said. “It is a dynamic plan that will need to change based on the health measures, but it does provide a plan we can all unify around. We face an imperative to balance our health response with our economic response. Public health solutions come first, and the economic solutions will come second. We have to be patient.”

Gochnour said people often talk about Utah’s “beehive mentality.” “We need to protect the hive and follow public health measures, stay engaged with the economy as best we can and serve those in need,” she said.