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Provo mayor introduces Proceed With Caution plan for COVID-19

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi laid out a road map Monday for residents to use as they ease back into the day-to-day business of normal living with COVID-19.

During the press conference, Kaufusi introduced a number of directional signs and reminders for how a return to normal will happen in Provo.

Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie and Utah County Health Department director Ralph Clegg also spoke at the briefing.

Kaufusi said traffic signs are intended to do a number of things:

  • They provide direction.
  • Signify danger.
  • Help us navigate unfamiliar territory.
  • And enable us to safely interact with others.

“But to be truly effective, they require some level of compliance from the public,” Kaufusi said. “While we have a choice, we know that not following them can have negative consequences—including possibly hurting ourselves or others.”

Ivie added, “It is imperative that citizens of the county act responsibly.”

He said the commissioners have tried hard to find a balance between keeping residents safe and healthy, while allowing them to live and thrive.

Ivie said he wants businesses to open but that could look different. He noted restaurant tables will be distanced and small groups of 20 or fewer can meet but there are some things that, when possible, should still continue.

“Getting back to work means we can still telecommute with those wonderful Zoom meetings,” Ivie said.

Kaufusi noted that last Wednesday, Governor Herbert announced the state’s COVID-19 risk level was being lowered from “Red—High Risk” to “Orange—Moderate Risk.”

“Taking our lead from the State’s recovery plan, Utah Leads Together, Provo City has developed a safety-centric operational plan to gradually loosen restrictions, with the timeline driven by COVID-19 case data and recommendations from the State and local health departments,” Kaufusi said.

She added, “The phrase ‘Proceed with Caution’ captures the balance taken as Provo begins cautiously opening our economy—forward momentum, but with the knowledge that risk still exists.”

Clegg supported Kaufusi in her methodology for reopening the city. He said he strongly encourages residents to protect themselves by staying at home and working from home whenever possible.

“Avoid visiting care facilities and wear face masks in public. Use good hygiene standards,” Clegg said.

Clegg also encourages businesses to screen their employees for symptoms and to support employees in quarantine.

He noted that unfortunately the health department has found hot spots for COVID-19 where employees have been forced to work.

Clegg did not release new numbers at the press conference but Kaufusi noted that they are posted on the Provo COVID-19 website as soon as they are released.

Kaufusi’s guidelines of the Proceed With Caution plan for residents include:

  • Getting tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Continue social distancing.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Wear face masks when needed.
  • Limit group gatherings to 20.
  • Protecting high-risk and vulnerable populations.

Kaufusi said the city’s responsibility, which has been outlined on the city’s website https://covid19.provo.org, includes: Protecting citizens in city facilities and safely delivering services. The city also wants to proceed with the Caution: COVID-19 Road to Recovery plan. It’s a comprehensive guide of safety protocols for the transition to the Orange Risk Level.

A business version for local owners is also available on the website.

Kaufusi said it is the responsibility of the community to work together to conquer COVID-19. Another part of the Proceed With Caution plan includes a visual commitment from individuals and businesses.

A voluntary pledge program will include a vinyl cling that can be displayed on business doors and in car windows to show those inside are dedicated to following the state’s safety protocols.

“It is important to note that we will regularly monitor public compliance, COVID-19 case data and health expert advice to determine if we need to tighten restrictions again,” Kaufusi said. “Provo has always been a community that comes together during times of need—and I know we will rise to the occasion now.”

It’s a positive plan, Kaufusi said. She noted that what comes out of her office, if at all possible, is positive as she tries to keep residents informed.

Provo High School graduating seniors, from left, Alicia Badonie, Kiara Bonilla and Mariana Andersen look for their friends during the Light the Night event held Monday, May 4, 2020, at Provo High School. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Splash Summit Waterpark sets COVID-19 strategy for opening this summer

Splash Summit Waterpark, formerly Seven Peaks Water Resort, laid out its plans for safe social distancing Monday as it prepares to open this summer.

It will be the first summer for the new owners. On Feb. 19 the water park announced it was under new ownership and was preparing the park to open for the 2020 season.

The 17-acre water park still features 15 water slides, a 500,000-gallon wave pool and eateries. Among the other changes will be the water park’s logo, tagline and website, https://splashsummit.com.

In a letter to patrons Monday, Splash Summit said its top priority is the safety and well-being of guests and staff.

“We continue to monitor and follow the guidance of federal, state and local officials regarding COVID-19,” the letter from management said. “Opening day is coming and we want you to rest assured that when it does, we are adhering to safety and sanitation guidelines set forth by Utah County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as industry best practices.”

Splash Summit’s planned opening day of May 23 has been changed to 10 a.m. Friday, May 29.

According to Nick Strong, spokesman for Splash Summit, “The CDC states: ‘Proper operation, maintenance and disinfection (e.g. with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or deactivate the virus that causes COVID-19’.”

Strong said precautionary measures to help increase the water park’s focus of cleanliness at the water park include:

• Providing hand sanitizer stations for individuals at entrances, exits and throughout the park.

• Cleaning staff has been significantly increased and is regularly disinfecting high-touch areas (door handles, buttons/switches, handrails, restroom surfaces).

• Implementing social distancing measures in queue lines, concession areas and all areas of the park. Lounge chairs will be placed in groups of 20 or less, throughout the park. Staff members will monitor those groups.

• Symptom checking in public and business interactions.

• Screening for employee and guest wellness.

• Implementation of face coverings for food staff.

“We ask that guests who are immuno compromised or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home,” the letter requested.

For a more comprehensive view of Splash Summit health plan, starting Tuesday residents can visit https://www.splashsummit.com/COVID.

Adjustments to these procedures may be forthcoming as health recommendations change, according to Strong.

“Splash Summit Waterpark is staying abreast of any changes in the current situation through daily updates from the CDC and the Utah County Health Department,” the letter states. “We value each guest who visits our park and hope these measures give you confidence that we are taking necessary precautions in this evolving situation.”

Strong added, “We remain committed to providing you and your family with a safe, clean and fun environment. We look forward to helping your family create fun and special memories this summer.”

In 2019, Seven Peaks refurbished the slides, added new features to the kiddie area, increased water temperature and made other much-needed improvements within the park, according to Strong.

“These improvements have paved the way for an enhanced guest experience at this iconic water park and we will continue to improve guest experience in 2020 and beyond.”

Added upgrades include restaurant and dessert options and, by customer request, Strong said they are bringing pizza back to the park.

Strong said the water park still intends to contribute to the community through its elementary school reading programs.

“The new identity builds upon the history of the park while it also opens doors to the future,” Strong said. “Splash Summit will focus on the water park and making it a heightened experience. We are now changing the small things.”

Splash Summit will offer the public the new Summit Season Pass for $39.99. It will no longer participate in the Pass of All Passes program. For more information on pricing, visit the Splash Summit website.

In April 2018, Parkprovo, LLC, which owned the Seven Peaks Water Park in Provo, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Utah. The park remained closed that summer.

Last year, a new management company, Cannonball Management, operated the park and opened for the 2019 season. It tried to up its game with special entertainment venues including animal acts and more.

The owners invested about $1 million worth of repairs and upgrades into the park, including: new boiler systems and water pumps. The slides were also upgraded and refinished.

Since then, the park was sold to a group of unnamed partners, and a new management team has been retained to run the day-to-day operations.

Sen. Mitt Romney proposes ‘Patriot Pay’ plan for essential service workers

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, wants employers and the federal government to temporarily up the pay of food, transportation, health care and other essential workers who earn less than $90,000 a year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal, which Romney released on Friday, would provide a temporary “Patriot Pay” wage increase of up to $12 per hour “to help compensate essential workers who are necessarily subject to greater risk of COVID-19” and ensure that employees “receive greater compensation than the unemployment insurance rate,” according to a news release.

That means that, under the proposal, an essential employee making $10 an hour would get a $12 hourly bonus and make a total $22 per hour for the months of May, June and July.

The federal government would fund three-quarters of the pay increase by providing a 75% refundable payroll tax credit to employers with employees who make less than $50,000 annually. For every $500 above $50,000 that an employee earned, the tax credit would phase out by $24. Only employees earning less than $90,000 annually would be eligible for the tax credit, which is capped at $1,440 a month per employee.

Romney gave a concrete example of how the temporary pay increase proposal would work in practice.

“A grocery store in Provo, UT, could opt into Patriot Pay to give their workers a $12/hour bonus,” an explainer of the Patriot Pay proposal states. “The employer would contribute $3, while the federal benefit would add $9, meaning a $10/hour worker would receive a $5,760 bonus from May 1 through the end of July. The grocery store worker’s weekly paycheck would include an extra $480.”

Congress and the U.S. Department of Labor would be responsible for designating “critical industries” that would qualify for the tax credit, according to the Republican senator’s proposal, “including, but not limited to, hospitals, food distributors and processors, and health manufacturers.”

“Healthcare professionals, grocery store workers, food processors and many others — the unsung patriots on the frontline of this pandemic — every day risk their safety for the health and well-being of our country, and they deserve our unwavering support,” Romney said in the news release. “Patriot Pay is a way for us to reward our essential workers as they continue to keep Americans safe, healthy, and fed.”

Romney’s proposal would be part of a potential fourth phase of federal coronavirus relief being considered by Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration.

Axios reported on April 19 that Trump administration officials believe a fourth phase bill could be weeks or months away and may not even be necessary if state economies are re-opened.

On April 7, U.S. Senate Democrats released a “Heroes Fund” proposal that, like Romney’s, would provide hazard pay to frontline workers during the pandemic.

The proposal has two major components, including a “$25,000 pandemic premium pay increase for essential frontline workers, equivalent to a raise of an additional $13 per hour from the start of the public health emergency until December 31, 2020,” according to an information sheet about the proposal.

The second major component is a “$15,000 recruitment incentive for health and home care workers and first responders to attract and secure the workforce needed to fight the public health crisis,” the information sheet states.

Under the Senate Democrats’ proposal, workers also would be eligible for retroactive pay of $13 per hour on top of regular wages for hours worked since Jan. 27, when the U.S. first declared a public health emergency.