By Representative Carl Albrecht, District 70
As of Thursday, May 21, the Utah Department of Health has reported 7,874 positive cases, 647 hospitalizations and 92 deaths. In all, Utah has administered 182,874 total tests. Additionally, it is estimated that 4,596 Utahns have recovered from COVID-19. Thank you and your families again for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every business and every industry, touched every individual and every family. The fast-spreading but little-understood nature of the disease has led in many parts of the world to indefinite school and workplace closures, steep declines in economic growth, and a pervasive sense of uncertainty about the future. These are unquestionably challenging times, but there is hope on the horizon.
We are entering a unique moment of opportunity for our state. When the financial recession hit in 2008, it had a profound impact on the American and global economies. In Utah, government and community leaders set out immediately to identify opportunities to restore the state to its traditional position of economic strength and viability. The result was nothing short of extraordinary. In the years that followed, Utah experienced a rapid recovery, becoming the most diverse, most stable and fastest growing economy in the nation.
The remarkable turnaround that occurred following the financial recession happened because Utah was prepared. Because of the lessons learned from that experience, we are even better prepared now.
We have a strong foundation that has only grown stronger during the past decade of economic expansion. Years of fiscally conservative policy and savings in rainy day funds have positioned Utah to seize the economic opportunities that social and economic reopening presents and to quickly return to the high quality of life we’ve grown accustomed to.
One way Utah has prepared for economically challenging times is by maintaining our AAA credit rating. This allows us to take advantage of lower material prices, expedite critical infrastructure projects and qualify for low interest rates, keeping people employed and empowering Utah to move forward while other states have to hit pause.
An important step in bringing clarity to the state’s economic outlook is to reexamine the state budget and make cuts where necessary. Reviewing the budget provides an opportunity to evaluate and reprioritize spending. This process is being undertaken carefully and thoughtfully. Our aim is to protect our most vulnerable populations, ensure critical programs remain funded and enable our state to begin moving forward again economically. By investing strategically and eliminating less-productive spending, we can ensure long-term benefits for future generations rather than just a quick fix to address our current challenges.
Utah is uniquely positioned to lead the nation through uncharted economic territory and return to prosperous times. Our growing reputation as a place where businesses want to invest is a huge advantage. When doubt and uncertainty become part of the nation’s economic outlook, businesses rush to places where they know they can thrive and where the government champions success rather than looking to tax it.
Although we are only just beginning to see the damage done by the pandemic, I remain bullish on Utah’s future. We are already rising to the challenge. We will continue to exercise caution and make every effort to safeguard funding for education and the vulnerable among us. Together, we will emerge from these challenges stronger than ever before.
Unemployment insurance claims dropped 12% from the previous week to 6,275 claims. While it is a 12% decrease from the previous week, it is still a 455% increase from the average weekly claims seen in 2019. More than $26.8 million has been paid in state benefits. More than $48.6 million has been paid in federal dollars from the CARES Act $600 weekly stimulus. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims had an additional 2,604 individuals filed and more than $5.6 million paid in federal dollars last week for PUA benefits.
Utah Leads Together 3.0
Several weeks ago, the Utah Leads Together plan was presented to chart a path forward through the pandemic. Thanks to careful implementation and your willingness to participate, Utah is well ahead of schedule in our efforts to safely restart the economy and begin to return to normal. On Wednesday, state leaders announced a revised version of the plan, Utah Leads Together 3.0, which reflects those results and provides instructions for high risk individuals, addresses impacts of multicultural communities and begins planning for economic recovery.
The economic focus in the Utah Leads Together 3.0 plan is the state’s next step in continuing the growth of our strong and diverse economy that makes Utah a national leader. As we each continue to do our part, we will get through this together.
Utah Maintains AAA Bond Rating
Great news about the state’s AAA bond rating is that Utah has been approved for a 15-year bond at 1.156% interest. Utah’s forward-thinking and fiscally responsible approach to the state budget shines even during times of crisis.
Moving to Yellow
It is important that we each continue following health guidelines during the yellow phase. Our efforts will allow us to keep moving forward as we begin returning to normal. Groups of 50 or fewer are now allowed to meet if following proper social distancing guidelines. Additionally, team sports can resume under new restrictions and pools are allowed to open.
Under the yellow phase, it is recommended that businesses allow flexibility for their employees to work from home or provide accommodations, especially for those that are high risk. When returning to work, proper social distancing guidelines should be followed and employees should wear a mask to protect themselves and those around them.
High Risk Individuals
70% of those who have passed away from COVID-19 were 65 years or older. Additionally, 90%+ of those who have passed away were 65 years or older and had an underlying medical condition.
Dr. Michael Good from University of Utah Health stated, “Coronavirus is a bully. It finds and attacks at-risk individuals. It finds and attacks older members of our community. It finds and attacks those who have other medical conditions.”
High-risk individuals include anyone over the age of 65, people who live in a nursing home or long-term facility, people with chronic lung disease or moderate-to-severe asthma, people with severe heart conditions, and people who are immunocompromised, obese or have other underlying health conditions.
Healthcare researchers have been carefully studying COVID-19 antibodies. This week, four Utah cities (Bluffdale, Riverton, Draper and Vineyard) began providing antibody tests to their residents. If you are interested in receiving a test for antibodies, contact your healthcare provider. They can provide more information on both accessibility and the cost of the tests.
Due to meeting restrictions and safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utah State Legislature is temporarily holding all meetings electronically, and therefore, public comment will be taken remotely. To provide the smoothest online service and ensure cyber security, the guidelines to provide comments can be found at: https://le.utah.gov/Documents/RemotePublicCommentGuidelines.pdf
I appreciate the opportunity to serve. We live in a beautiful State, especially where we live here in Rural Utah. I appreciate all of you good folks who make it such a great place to live and raise families.
I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day holiday. We should never forget those who went before and settled these beautiful mountain valleys. Nor should we ever forget those soldiers who have protected this great nation and state. \May God bless them and their families.
Please contact me with questions or concerns by emailing me at Cralbrecht52@gmail.com or calling or texting (435) 979-6578. I will always represent our rural values. Thanks again for this opportunity.