SALT LAKE CITY — If you’re looking for a good way to invite people to Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a suggestion:
“You are cordially invited to Thanksgiving Dinner at our house. In preparation, please quarantine yourself, and the people with whom you live, beginning Nov. 12 and ending when you arrive at our house. Please also get tested for the coronavirus during this time and bring proof of a negative test result to the dinner. You will not be admitted without this.”
If we were serious about stemming a spike in COVID-19 cases, or about the emergency alert that jolted every Utahn with a cellphone blast Sunday night, this is the only responsible way to do it.
Or just save yourself the trouble and have a quiet Thanksgiving meal at home with the people who live with you. Do a Zoom call with family members in the afternoon. That’s what we’re doing, albeit reluctantly and with sadness. Our decision became easier when a cousin whose family normally joins us tested positive a few days ago.
This generation of Americans has trouble with the concept of sacrifice.
The generation that understood it best — those who survived the Great Depression and World War II — are leaving us quickly, and much too soon. We could use their wisdom right now, as well as their memories of ration books, chocolate shortages and having to drive on bald tires because rubber was needed for the war effort.
Way back at the start of this pandemic, Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak summed up today’s generation this way:
“This is the first time since World War II that all Americans have been asked to sacrifice. Sure, we had some warm-fuzzy unity in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. But the biggest change in behavior for most Americans was airport shoe removal and building security.”
Sunday night, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tried to grab our attention and push us a bit beyond lip service. His new executive order outlines rules, including a statewide mask mandate. Some people have focused on the inconsistencies, and there are a few. Organized athletic events are canceled, except for high school and college football games that are already scheduled.
The order left bars and restaurants open, albeit with restrictions. But it didn’t address ventilation systems that could spread the virus if not properly installed and filtered.
Others focused on timing. Shouldn’t this have been issued several weeks ago?
But the minutiae isn’t as important as the overall message, which is that you should stay at home except for trips that are absolutely necessary, and you should wear a mask.
Which, despite the end of the election season, still seems to be a challenge for many. That was evident by the small group that gathered to protest outside both the Governor’s Mansion and his Orem residence on Monday.
The facts put these people to shame. Utah’s hospitals are brimming. As a Deseret News report said this week, cases here are at 71 for every 100,000 people. New York was at 51 cases per 100,000 when it went through its worst days last April. In Utah, the pandemic is out of control, yet it could be corralled with a few personal sacrifices the Greatest Generation might have gladly traded for what they were required to endure.
Veterans Day is a good time to put what we’re being asked to do in perspective. We have encountered some shortages — toilet paper, early on, and a few other staples — but nothing like past generations encountered. We have, however, suffered the loss of people. Three people I knew have died. Others have recovered but are struggling with long-term aftereffects.
What do we owe them? What do we owe the vulnerable who still live among us?
If there is a disturbing flaw in Herbert’s executive order, it is that it expires just before Thanksgiving. This is the most dangerous moment in the pandemic, thus far. The virus does not respect familial relationships, holidays or borders. Utah’s high positive test rate means many people have it and don’t know they are spreading it.
Does the lineup of fall holidays — Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas — really mean anything if we can’t sacrifice a little for each other, even if that means staying apart during times when tradition says we get together?