While COVID-19 is still present in the community, the health department’s original operations are able to handle the situation without the state of emergency, Executive Director of the Salt Lake County Health Department Dr. Angela Dunn said.
“Given the incorporation of COVID-19 response activities into the Health Department’s regular infrastructure, Mayor Wilson and I believe it is no longer fiscally [warranted] for the County to extend the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency,” Dunn’s letter to the Salt Lake County Council read.
The state of emergency was originally enacted by Mayor Jenny Wilson on Mar. 6, 2020, bringing in greater federal funding to account for the impact of the virus on the community. The funding assisted in providing $156 million in rent relief payments and supported small businesses, school districts and nonprofit organizations through the CARES Act, according to the release.
In addition to extra federal funding, the state of emergency also allowed for structural changes, such as eliminating $77 million from the county’s operating budget, implementing a hiring freeze and using current employees in testing and vaccination centers in order to keep them employed. The statement further noted that not one Salt Lake County employee was laid off due to the pandemic.
While the state of emergency has been lifted, Salt Lake County will continue to provide vaccine clinics, particularly in underserved communities, and hold a greater emphasis on community health by providing culturally and linguistically diverse services, the release said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic up-ended almost all County operations, yet we emerge stronger,” Wilson said. “Under Dr. Angela Dunn’s leadership, our health department is thriving, and Salt Lake County also remains strong from a financial perspective. I am proud of the County’s effective management of the emergency from both a health and economic perspective.”