Earlier this week, the Deseret News and KSL invited the people of Utah to join a challenge for our day — Utah’s 55-day moonshot: Our quest to quell the pandemic — patterned after President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring national challenge to put a man on the moon because it, “will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
The goal of quelling the pandemic in the state is worth every citizen doing everything possible to slow and control the spread of COVID-19 by Labor Day. It has been encouraging that many in what could be characterized as the “anti-masker” crowd along with “maskers” have responded that they are “all in” on the initiative.
Still, far too many people haven’t responded yet to this challenge or are choosing to continue to do as they please. It is clear that what Utahns have been doing up to this point isn’t working.
Gov. Gary Herbert spoke of the successes he’s seen in the few counties, including Salt Lake County, where local leaders have imposed mask mandates. Currently, only Salt Lake and Summit counties have asked the state’s permission to have mask wearing mandates. It would be wise for other counties across the state to follow suit and approach the governor, or for the governor to encourage similar measures in order to stem a pandemic that is disrupting so much of everyday life.
Health officials on Thursday said Utah’s seven-day rolling average of newly diagnosed cases is 619, and 10.4% of those tested are found to be infected.
The governor has set a goal of reducing that rolling average to 500 or less by Aug. 1. Frankly, even that number is too high. Life won’t resume any semblance of normalcy until the vast majority of people are united behind the fight.
Across the country nearly half the states, including, most recently, Alabama and Montana, have issued mask orders as cases of the virus surge. Utah leaders and citizens must prove it isn’t necessary by putting the mask on, or quickly join that list.
In Provo on Wednesday, nearly 100 people pushed their way into the Utah County Commission chambers, grouped closely together and most not wearing masks. They were responding to a proposal on whether to ask the governor to allow “compassionate exemptions” to his mandate for all public school officials and students to wear masks when classes resume soon.
But they demonstrated the opposite of compassion. Commission Chairman Tanner Ainge and Commissioner Nathan Ivie had little choice but to postpone the meeting in the name of public health.
Too many people are suffering. Too much of the economy is stagnating. Too many people are out of work.
Medical professionals are clear about the value of face coverings. They say the virus could be corralled within six weeks if all people would comply. That means going back to work, school, church and the grocery store without worry.
Responsible leadership and responsible citizenship require swift compliance and determined resolution. One way or another, every resident of this state must be “all in” on this challenge. We should echo Kennedy that this COVID-19 challenge is, “one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”