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Utah Cities And Counties Lack Resources To Respond To Pandemic Health And Economic Issues

The Utah State Capitol.
Nicole Nixon
The Political Subdivisions Interim Committee met Wednesday to discuss local governments' response to the pandemic.

Organizations that advocate for local government informed a Utah legislative committee Wednesday that they have limited resources to address the coronavirus pandemic. 

Jill Parker, executive director of the Utah Association of Local Health Departments, said health departments have had to borrow staff to stay on top of contact tracing, particularly as the state has loosened restrictions. When Utah was in the high-risk phase, she said every positive case would have about five contacts.

“We now see that one positive case has about 30 to 40 contacts,” Parker said. “Or in one instance that I helped a county with [Tuesday], one case had 90 contacts.”

Lincoln Shurtz from the Utah Association of Counties said counties want more flexibility in using money the state Legislature has earmarked for other purposes, like tourism dollars that have to be used for marketing.

“As you can imagine, right now we’re not doing much to promote tourism,” Shurtz said. “There are many jurisdictions that would like to be doing something to support their business communities.”

Members of the Political Subdivisions Interim Committee said the issues outline how local government needs more direction in responding to emergencies. 

During the Legislature’s special session in April, Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, and Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, sponsored a bill to address just that, but it wasn’t considered. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, which Anderegg chaired, the committee said it would support a new bill to amend the Emergency Management Act.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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