SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – As COVID-19 health restrictions for residents and employees have eased up within the past few months, significant effort has gone into informing businesses of the information they need to reopen as a greater effort takes place to retain those local operations and ultimately restart the economy.

Salt Lake County officials say that it was not yet known yet if consumers were ready to join businesses that were choosing to reopen and if not, which measures would provide residents a greater sense of safety.

In early May, Salt Lake County staff dedicated to evaluating COVID-19’s regional economic
impact and enabling a successful recovery commissioned a Consumer Sentiment Survey, after
seeing a gap in data available on the other half of the equation: consumer behavior and attitudes.

As organizations and governments are eager to help retain businesses, County officials say consumers must feel comfortable and confident enough to engage, and businesses need to know what ways will achieve that.

A new survey of residents’ behavior was conducted from May 8-16 which shows respondents’ successful embrace of public health orders to flatten the curve. And one of the residents’
greatest concerns was indicated by survey data that shows 70% of Salt Lake County respondents
were worried the state government and Salt Lake County Health Department will lift restrictions
too quickly, compared to not lifting restrictions quickly enough, 30%.

For many residents, that concern translates into limited participation in leisure activities and with
non-essential business, according to County officials. More than two-thirds of respondents reportedly hadn’t dined in a restaurant, gone to a gym, or visited a salon in the last month, industries that were all directly impacted by the health orders but are slowly reopening.

“This data is critical for businesses,” Dina Blaes, director of the Office of Regional Development,
said. “It includes what they need to encourage consumers to engage with them. If, for example,
requiring employees to wear a mask will be safer, and allay customers’ concerns, look at the
data. Perhaps the most striking information from the survey is consumers remain mindful of
public health issues and are watching what measures businesses are taking to address the

A high number of those surveyed, about 81% said they were more likely to visit a business if those
businesses were following local health and safety guidelines. When asked what local
businesses could do to increase shoppers’ safety, many were in favor of sanitization, according to county officials.

Respondents emphatically said they would feel much more or somewhat more comfortable if

• Sanitized high touch surfaces regularly
• Provided sanitizer in prominent locations
• Encouraged and maintained social distancing between customers
• Provided minimal contact and pick-up options
• Required daily symptom checks for all employee

Salt Lake County officials say they are using the new information to further data-driven decision making for public health safety, as well as in economic recovery. The survey data provides actionable insight governments, business industries, and other leaders can use related to safety measures to put in place to reduce consumers’ sense of concern.

The Consumer Sentiment Survey is one part in a multi-pronged approach Salt Lake County says they are carrying out to further COVID-19 economic recovery. Federal aid, like grants and loans, serves
the need of minimizing short-term damage from closures, while efforts to engage consumers are
key to the strategy of business retention, according to county officials. Longer-term strategies to further the resilience of Salt Lake County’s economy include policy recommendations made by Salt Lake County Economic Development in the recent release of its Future of Jobs Reports on May 28.