Facebook Twitter

In our opinion: Gov. Herbert, what are you waiting for?

As COVID-19 cases soar, hospitals are worried about future capacity. What information is the governor lacking?

SHARE In our opinion: Gov. Herbert, what are you waiting for?
Alex looks at her husband, Travis, as they wait for medical assistant Chandler Squier to administer a COVID-19 test at Intermountain Healthcare’s Salt Lake Clinic on Friday, July 10, 2020.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Gov. Gary Herbert says wear a mask. But he says the choice is up to you.

Meanwhile, medical professionals are sounding alarms. Health care leaders on Friday said the state is seeing the start of an even larger spike, with an all-time high of 867 new cases reported that day. That follows two weeks of surge.

Hospitals are worried about future capacity. Conversations now center on whether we’re headed for a formal shutdown. No one wants that, which is why the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County endorse the mandatory mask rule that remains in place.

The governor has given the people of the state until Aug. 1 to demonstrate enough voluntary compliance to the mask and social distancing recommendations to bring about a reduction in cases. If not, he said more drastic measures may be needed. 

We have a question for the governor: What are you waiting for? What information are you lacking?

In his own words spoken Thursday, he said the state could handle a seven-day rolling average of up to 800 cases per day, but “as we get up to 800, it’s like the wings coming off a plane,” adding, “We don’t want to wait for that to happen.”

A day later, the state reported 867 new cases. Why wait for that to become a week-long average?

The governor said all children returning to school next month will be required to wear masks. Would it not be better to make the mandate now, stop the surge in cases and perhaps allow students in the low impact areas to not wear masks?

We ask a similar question of all Utahns: If you want your children to be in school this fall, are you willing to do the work now to make that happen? If you want to meet friends at the mall, celebrate a birthday or attend church services, are you willing to band together in common sacrifice?

A portion of the population views mask wearing as a political issue, rather than as a way to protect other people and, ultimately, to keep the state from having to shut down its economy in the name of public health.

Mixed signals from the White House have not helped. President Trump has publicly urged Americans to wear masks, even as he has refused to do so himself. Most recently, he agreed to wear one during a trip to Walter Reed Hospital to meet with wounded soldiers. 

The governor has allowed local governments, including Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties, as well as Springdale, a town near Zion National Park, to impose their own mask requirements. The Salt Lake County order covers the state’s most populous county, including about one-third of the state’s residents. But by not imposing a statewide order, is the state diluting the effectiveness of the orders in those areas? 

This is an especially relevant question along the Wasatch Front. People in Utah County and the areas from Davis County through Ogden to the north are part of a vibrant and interconnected metroplex with Salt Lake County at its center. Does this mean people in nonmask-mandated parts of the metroplex are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and more likely to spread it throughout the entire area? Wouldn’t a consistent statewide approach be more effective?

Perhaps many Utahns have coronavirus fatigue. That’s understandable, given how long many of them have been forced to work from home or to take precautions when eating out. 

We understand the natural aversion many Utahns have to mandates. This state was settled by pioneers who cherished self-reliance and liberty. But history will not be kind to a generation that was reluctant to do what was necessary to avoid a public health catastrophe because of worries about how a few people might react. The window for stemming this surge will not be open long.