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In our opinion: Utahns must not ‘drop the ball’ on social distancing

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Klo Hset is tested for COVID-19 by Ameritech College of Healthcare student Taylor Meono in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 12, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

America should be entering the dog days of summer where baseball, hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack are the food of choice in jampacked stadiums. Those at home should be grilling in the backyard with one eye on friends and the other on the TV to catch a score or play at the plate. 

Instead, the pandemic marches forward, and the recent numbers are unsettling.

The weekend demonstrated just how hard it is to stay focused. The number of COVID-19 cases in Utah and many states across the country continue to spike. Protests, political rallies and gatherings of all kinds are growing. Social distancing is shrinking and many citizens are unmasking themselves in public places.

Many have grown weary of the daily effort required to safely open society and jump-start the economy. That lack of focus could cost the nation every gain made in the battle against the novel coronavirus.

With no live baseball, some play-by-play announcers have taken to calling their children’s bedtime routine or commentating on their spouse making dinner or their pets playing in the yard. Perhaps a play-by-play from baseball’s history book can teach a lesson on the principle of staying focused. It might provide insight into the need for societal focus in fighting the rising numbers of cases and deaths due to COVID-19.

In the 1912 World Series the New York Giants battled the Boston Red Sox in a tough seven-game series. It came down to the final game to determine who would win it all. The score was tied 1-1 with the Red Sox up to bat. One of the Boston players hit a high fly ball into center field. 

The Giants’ center fielder, Fred Snodgrass, positioned himself under the ball and prepared to make the routine catch. The ball came down into his glove, popped up, then fell to the ground. The crowd screamed in disbelief that he could have dropped such an easy ball. The Red Sox scored, won the series and Snodgrass was tortured in the sports pages across the country as the cause for the Giants’ defeat. 

Snodgrass went on to play great baseball as a productive player for the eight seasons that followed. Yet, despite his great career, his introduction was always followed by the statement, “Yes, yes, you are the guy who dropped the ball and lost the World Series.” 

Snodgrass had caught thousands of fly balls, but in that one critical situation he lost focus, took his eye off the ball and failed. 

Did he for just a second start thinking of a triumphant celebration? Did he ponder his response to the reporters who would swarm him after the victory?

Loss of focus, even just briefly, can be the difference between success and failure in a host of situations, and especially in the midst of a pandemic. 

Dr. Angela Dunn, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said, “These numbers are sobering. For three straight weeks now our cases have been increasing at a rate that isn’t sustainable. We are at risk for overwhelming our hospital capacity, which could result in Utahns not getting the medical care they need. The only explanation for this increase in cases is that we are experiencing a real and a dramatic rise in the spread of COVID-19 across our state.”

Utah has done well in collectively working to mitigate the impact of the virus. Now is not the time to lose focus. 

Everyone should keep their eye on the ball and do their part.