A sign requiring face masks is seen at Harmons Grocery store Monday, March 8, 2021, in Salt Lake City. Utah's statewide mask mandate will be lifted on April 10 under a measure that passed the full Legislature Friday, March 5, 2021. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox has said he plans to sign the bill. The bill lays out a new timeline for when Utah's COVID-19 restrictions applying to businesses, events, and schools would end. The mask mandate would still apply to gatherings of more than 50 people. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is launching a return to work program to help people reentering the workforce as new coronavirus case numbers continue to drop, state officials announced at a COVID-19 briefing Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Deirdre Henderson said the program will provide returnships, similar to internships, as opportunities for those who've been away from the workforce to build their resumes and gain relevant experience. She said the program is designed for those who've had a longer absence, such as full-time parents, retirees and military personnel.

“Unlike internships, which are designed primarily for young people at the beginning of their careers, the goal of a returnship program is to help experienced adults reenter the workforce without starting at the bottom of the career ladder,” Henderson told reporters.

Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed an executive order during the briefing requiring state agencies to identify returnship opportunities that can be offered. He also urged Utah residents to continue wearing masks until everyone in the state is able to be vaccinated.

The state's mask order will end on April 10 under a new law that also lifts coronavirus restrictions once Utah receives 1.63 million first vaccine doses — if case counts and hospitalization rates remain low. Masks orders will remain in place for schools and gatherings of more than 50 people, and businesses can still choose to require them.

New coronavirus cases in Utah have continued to decrease as the vaccine rollout continues, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn. More than 520,000 of the state’s 3.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated, and over 814,00 have received at least one dose, according to state data.

More than 386,000 virus cases have been reported in Utah, along with 2,125 known deaths, according to state data.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.


Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.