Despite Delta’s spread, expert predicts no change to economy and no new mandates


Patrick Jones


As the Delta variant makes its way through Utah, John Poelman, senior director at Leavitt Partners, thinks Utah’s economy and mandates will not change much. He said individuals will be responsible for their decisions in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and their own levels of comfortability. 


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The Delta variant has changed the way the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), government agencies, workplaces, and hospitals think about COVID. Last week, the CDC updated their recommendations due to Delta’s higher transmissibility. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people who get the virus can spread the virus to other people and therefore should wear masks in public indoor spaces in regions of substantial or high transmission. 

According to the COVID dashboard presented by the State of Utah, around 81% of all intensive care unit (ICU) beds are currently occupied. As of August 2, there are 395 total cases of COVID in hospitals, which is about 130 more people than a month ago (July 2). 

Poelman said people are reluctant to act quickly and to follow CDC guidelines. He said it would take higher case counts and fuller ICUs to prompt action amongst the majority of Uthans. Since there are still many unknowns with the severity of the Delta variant, Utahns and the Utah government will most likely need more information before they act. 

“I think there is going to need to be some more information. People are going to need to feel more confident on what the risk and reality really is before they do things.” 

The greatest risk now is the potential for other more powerful variants and mutations, according to Poelman. He said this should be a reason for vaccinated people to be more cognizant of their exposure and risk levels as Delta spreads. 

“If the virus can exist in a host that’s been vaccinated, the virus can learn and potentially be able to evade the vaccine. That’s where we can really be resetting the clock.”

Poelman said the Utah government will most likely be highly resistant to imposing mandates again due to their value towards personal freedoms. Poelman said the driver of precaution adherence will be individuals, national employers, and event management companies. 

In terms of the potential economic impact of Delta, Poelman does not anticipate a big hit. Poelman thinks Utah’s government will continue to limit restrictions and mandates unless the virus gets out of control, which will allow an open economy. 

Poelman thinks we will always be living with COVID in some form, but remains hopeful that Utahns have adapted to this new COVID world. 

“We have as a society learned how to function even in a COVID world. While we may be impatient to have all the freedoms and luxuries back and that social interaction we’ve been craving, I think we have learned to adapt. It’s not working for everyone, but it’s working in a way that we can keep moving forward until, from a public health perspective, we can minimize this.”