Musings on Covid-19 in Utah

The state of Utah is currently under a gubernatorial “directive” – rather than a mandatory order – to stay at home, and all schools and universities have closed their physical facilities to students, while restaurants are limited to carry-out and drive-by food service, and non-essential businesses are supposed to be closed. But the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have issued mandatory stay-at-home orders, as has Summit County (essentially Park City).

In our part of the state, what’s an essential business seems rather loosely defined. Gun shops are open, as are dollar stores and at least one or two furniture emporiums, and a significant percentage of university faculty are still using their offices daily. I don’t see large groups in public places, but there’s a feeling that I can only call surreal, because it seems to me that, with the exception of the lack of toilet paper, flour, and pasta in the grocery stores, most people here are acting as if nothing really bad is going to happen.

Maybe, in a state with a great deal of open space, matters won’t get as bad as in New York and all the larger cities – except that the Wasatch Front, a hundred miles of suburban and urban sprawl sandwiched between two mountain ranges containing two million people, doesn’t exactly qualify as open space, as the two Salt Lake area mayors seem to realize, unlike the suburban municipalities surrounding Salt Lake. With a 1,000 known cases and only seven deaths in Utah at the moment, matters don’t seem that bad. Except, only 20,000 people have been tested.

Cedar City and its principal suburb contain roughly 45,000 people, plus whatever college students are remaining here out of 11,000, but St. George, 50 miles south, contains over 150,000 people, and I have my doubts that this part of Utah will remain unscathed, although at present there have only been less than 50 known cases and two covid-19 deaths in the two counties. The first testing locations became available in this area just today.

One aspect of this that I find troubling is that all too many people here have no idea how bad things are elsewhere, as evidenced by something like fifteen commissioners of rural counties here who wrote the governor demanding that he remove the directive and prohibitions because there was no danger of a pandemic here and those prohibitions were strangling the local economies. Or by the university student who couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t be able to attend a summer program in Berlin. Or some friends who continue to live “normal” lives.

And most people don’t seem to realize that, while we have a very new and modern small hospital, it only has 48 beds… and it’s 250 miles to Salt Lake or 50 miles to St. George, a small city with a population containing large numbers of retirees.

It could be that southwestern Utah will escape relatively unscathed, but I’m not betting on it… especially since too many people here seem to think it won’t happen.

5 thoughts on “Musings on Covid-19 in Utah”

  1. Michael Creek says:

    Oh Dear! Your description suggests to me that people are getting mixed messages. At this stage there is no vaccine so no magic bullet. The only way of controlling this pandemic is by reducing its spread. If it gets out of control, growth becomes exponential and it wii swamp health services, meaning lives lost that were potentially salvageable. Social distancing, personal hygeine (I’m amazed that you didn’t include antiseptic, hand wash, hand sanitizer etc in the panic buying list), large scale targetted testing, case contact tracing and mandatory isolation for known case contacts (threshhold for closeness of contact) are all vital. Social norms need to be put in abeyance, and for this to happen then leadership from the top, without equvocation, is key.

    1. To begin with, all forms of soap and sanitizer, as well as laundry detergent, vanished from the store shelves. Soap and detergent are creeping back, but not antiseptic wipes or sanitizer, not so far. Paper towels are sometimes available, but toilet paper remains scarce.

  2. Jeff says:

    I did find it interesting how quickly the LDS Churches closed and pulled missionaries back home. I thought that was a sign they were taking things seriously. I hope all this spares you in Cedar (wow, 45k, it’s really grown since I left).

  3. Michael Creek says:

    There are various recipes for making Sanitizer on the internet, using alcohol (pretty much pure) and things like aloe vera. As long it’s 70% alcohol it will destroy the virus. Of course, this alcohol also sold out quickly.
    Here, in Australia, the major supermarket chains have dedicated the first hour of trading to those that are more vulnerable, such as seniors or people with disabilities. Buying limits on some products like paper towel, toilet paper…

  4. Wine Guy says:

    This is the bottom line:

    The scientific and medical illiteracy of many of our leaders, along with their obstinance at listening to the people whose jobs it is to know is going to kill many who didn’t need to die.

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