When Gov. Gary Herbert announced he was moving his Utah Leads Together colored phasing program from the orange medium-risk phase to the yellow low-risk phase in less than a two-week time period, Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and her administrative team were caught off guard.

“While the loosening restrictions came more quickly than we anticipated, and perhaps sooner than some of us are comfortable with, we feel confident the data cited and the health expertise support the decision to further continue opening our economy,” Kaufusi said.

Simply put, while it takes a lot to shut down a city, it takes much more effort to bring it back, said Nicole Martin, city spokeswoman.

Kaufusi’s “Proceed With Caution” program for the yellow low-risk phase takes time to prepare for and implement. Places like the Provo Rec Center opened this week, but to get it there took hours of preparation.

“It’s a Herculean effort, moving machines and marking floors with new calculations for social distancing,” Martin said. “It takes a lot of work to implement.”

Martin said it is not only the physical changes that need to take place, but it is also an educational challenge to get the community moved mentally to the next phase.

Martin did note members of the public have been receptive to the new health safety standards they must go through, like having their temperatures taken before they can enter a facility.

As of Tuesday, Provo City instituted the “yellow” restrictions in all facilities.

Kaufusi noted in a letter to residents, “The Governor’s Executive Order calls out the following reasons for reducing restrictions: Utah has maintained a COVID-19 transmission rate of less than 1.5% for 14 days, and statewide intensive care unit bed usage has not exceeded 10% for 14 days.”

The Utah Department of Health agrees that some areas should remain at orange, but did not include Utah County or Provo City in those exceptions, Kaufusi said.

“Before making our decision to follow the state’s lead, we consulted with the Utah County Health Department and received similar direction,” Kaufusi added. “We deliberately and thoughtfully chose the phrase, ‘Proceed With Caution’ to guide Provo City’s response because it captures the balance between cautiously opening our economy and minimizing health risks.”

From the initial outbreak, the city’s response has been and will continue to be one of calm preparedness, the mayor’s letter stated.

“Decisions are made based on current data and by consulting experts with Utah’s Coronavirus Task Force and both Utah County and state health departments,” Kaufusi said.

Residents may find information on yellow phase procedure by visiting the state’s website at http://coronavirus.utah.gov.

“As many of us begin to enjoy a little more normalcy in our lives, let’s continue to adhere to social distancing and other guidelines,” Kaufusi said.

For information on Provo’s “Proceed With Caution,” instructions visit http://covid19.provo.org.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter


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