Utah has been collaborating and “crushing” the past couple of days. In an unprecedented partnership, the state of Utah and Silicon Slopes announced www.TestUtah.com and its accompanying “Crush the Curve” slogan. The goal is to get 2 million Utahns (basically everybody) to take the assessment at www.TestUtah.com. The simple and easy questionnaire gathers data and then helps those with symptoms schedule a FREE COVID-19 test at mobile locations. So far, these white-tent testing sites are at Timpanogos Hospital in Orem and Provo Towne Centre Mall. More will open throughout the state in the next two weeks. The goal? Crush the curve of corona and get back to normal.
OK, this is a big deal. And also kinda hard to wrap your head around. A group of tech CEOs based in Utah Valley — all in their 40s — are used to solving problems. They live for it and work for it. So when they realized that testing was the key to knowing who has the virus … and the key to getting Utah’s economy back on track, they went to work. (Find Silicon Slopes on YouTube to watch multiple conversations about this.) Basically, Silicon Slopes has figured out a fast and easy way to find out if you need a test … and then providing tests. For FREE. Truly. No strings attached. It usually costs money to get a COVID-19 test from your health provider, but Silicon Slopes wanted to knock down barriers, so this innovation was made possible through a combination of funds raised by SlopesServes.com AND getting bargain basement prices for every cost associated with this process. The tech CEOs are treating this like a startup, and that excitement showed at the press conference. Domo’s Josh James said, “I’m just excited for all of us to band together to beat this invisible enemy.” This could be the largest health assessment ever done in the state of Utah. “The reason we can’t get ahead of this is that we don’t understand what we’re dealing with,” said Dave Elkington, co-founder of Inside Sales and one of the leading voices of Silicon Slopes in this movement. Each mobile site can conduct 500 tests per day. I was curious to see the sites for myself. As I drove past the Timpanogos Hospital site twice yesterday, I saw lines in the morning and literally no wait in the afternoon. Note, Dr. Angela Dunn said the reliability of tests decrease drastically if the person does not have symptoms. So tests will still be prioritized for those who already show symptoms.
Sledgehammer Vs. Scalpel
Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox calls social distancing a sledgehammer approach, and he recognizes we can’t stay at home forever. The scalpel approach is what TestUtah.com brings to the table. The three steps are being called ASSESS, TEST and TRACE (find out everyone exposed to someone who tests positive).
On Friday, Utah charted 172 new cases of COVID-19 — our highest one-day jump yet. But this week has shown us that days are less indicative of a trend than looking at one or two weeks at a time. There are fluctuations from day to day of how many people are tested … and whether those lab results come back quickly. The two-week trend is showing a daily growth rate of 10-15 percent, which is lower than most other states. We have tested 24,248 Utahns, which was an increase of 3,138 tests from Thursday. The latest report includes 45 new cases in Utah County within one day, which is likely caused by an increase in testing. All in Utah, Utah is doubling its coronavirus cases every four days. Utah is still at 7 deaths from the disease. Every death is a tragedy, but keeping the number at 7 so far is a victory compared to other states. See domo.com/coronavirus-tracking
Stay at Home Directive
If you haven’t read Gov. Herbert’s “Stay Safe Stay Home Directive,” here is your homework assignment. https://coronavirus.utah.gov/full-text-governors-stay-home…/ About 10 states including Utah have not issued an “order” to stay at home. Gov. Herbert has preferred to call his a “DIRECTIVE,” but honestly there’s not a lot of difference. Other states have put the power of law behind it by calling it an ORDER, but many states are not enforcing the law. Gov. Herbert expects Utahns to protect themselves and to do what’s right. Gov. Herbert said if there was a major spike, he would review and reconsider his directive. Until then, he’s comfortable with the plan we have in place. The directive allows for individual jurisdiction within communities. Right now about 70 percent of the state’s population is under a stay-at-home ORDER, which is stricter than the statewide directive given by Gov. Herbert. During Gov. Herbert’s press conference, he told people if they were listening to him while driving south on I-15 to celebrate spring break or conference weekend, they should turn around and come home. “Follow the directive. Travel should be eliminated unless it’s essential,” he said.
Small business owners throughout the country were hitting refresh on their bank’s websites on Friday to see if applications were ready for the Paycheck Protection Program. The SBA and the U.S. Treasury were at odds until they reached an agreement on Thursday night. Then the revised application was sent to lenders. Chaos and nonstop work ensued to get applications ready. If all goes well (fingers and toes crossed), funding should start landing in small business owners’ bank accounts early next week.
Utah Was First
If we rewind time for minute, we’ll see that Utah was first in the nation to limit gatherings to such a small number Gov. Herbert caught many of us off guard when he limited our events to 100 or less (which then led to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints canceling weekly church services — stake conferences had already been called off). “That first Sunday bought us so much time!” Cox said. We were also 5th or 6th in the nation to close our schools.
The “Urgent Phase” (as Gov. Herbert labeled it) started on March 16th and is projected to last 8-12 weeks. Models show us peaking around the end of April with positive cases.
General Jefferson Burton came to the microphone for the first time Friday, dressed in a suit instead of military clothes. He’s the heralded leader Gov. Herbert has tasked in leading the Utah Department of Health through this crisis. He finally shared numbers of supplies that reporters have been repeatedly asking for: Utah as 600 ICU beds, and 297 of them are filled (mostly non-COVID right now). Utah has roughly 1,000 ventilators of the caliber needed for COVID-19 patients. Twenty-seven percent of those are being used right now. Here’s the real worry: PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). We need 3.6 million N-95 masks. We have 165,000. We need 4.7 million gowns. We have 61,000. We need 2.2 million face shields. We have 76,000. Utah companies are jumping in to create or repair supplies. One likely long-term outcome of this pandemic is that more items will be made in the United States. As a country we’ve relied heavily on China for our manufacturing, and that supply chain closed down for a town and is now bogged down as it tries to catch up.
In addition to testing for COVID-19, our path to success will also include an Antibody Test, which will tell us if we’ve gotten through the disease and inherently built up immunity to it — basically “COVID Superhereos.” Knowing who has immunity will help diminish our fears of participating in society as we move forward. A very large order of antibody tests will be arriving in Utah in about 10 days. The tests look for two types of antibodies that show up at different stages after being infected. “Within 15 minutes, you can see where you are in the process of infection,” Chiao-ih of Medsential told the Women Tech Council. The antibody test can only be done by point-of-care providers for now. This is a screening test only and does not replace the viral testing the state is doing to detect for active viral infection.
Zions Is Not The Place
Zion National Park closed on Friday. Gov. Herbert shared varying statistics about how many Zion visitors are from out of state, but regardless of the number, the point is that we don’t want outside visitors right now. Visit Utah — later.
Overflow Is Ready
The state has established an alternative care center in Salt Lake City with 250 beds, and the capacity can grow to 750 beds if needed. The plan is to keep COVID-19 patients at traditional hospitals but move non-coronavirus patients to the “pop-up hospital.”
Utah anticipates needing additional healthcare workers during this pandemic. They are particularly interested in connecting with healthcare instructors, students and retired medical personnel. If you’re interested, visit www.coronavirus.utah.gov/help.
Silicon Slopes surveyed business owners and found some troubling data. The average small business expects revenue during the second quarter of 2020 to drop 50 percent. Most businesses who participated in the survey don’t expect to recover until the end of this year or early 2021. More than 60 percent of survey participants said their businesses can’t go longer than three months without some sort of assistance, and 12 percent of the companies have already ceased operations at least temporarily. Almost 100 percent of businesses have altered their approach to business including how they acquire customers and what they sell to those customers. One-third have lowered prices. The survey also showed that 10 percent of companies have reduced head count. (This number is much, much higher in industries such as entertainment and restaurants.)
Lost a Month
Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox told the Women Tech Council on Friday that the first tests sent out by the federal government were not valid and had to be redone. “That set us back a month and allowed the virus to spread unchecked,” Cox said.
In summary, have hope! Take the assessment at www.TestUtah.com! And stay home! Utah is going to beat this virus, and we’re going to be looked to for leadership outside our borders. People are talking and solving. Let’s go!