OGDEN — Veterans Day is Wednesday, but much like many other traditions during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, the 2020 version of the federal holiday will be quite a bit different.
As expected, all state, county and city gatherings associated with the holiday have been called off this year as the virus rapidly spreads throughout the Beehive State. Most notably in Northern Utah, what would have been the 15th annual Veterans Day Parade has been canceled, along with a handful of other events.
According to the Utah Department of Health, a record 424 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday. Utah’s seven-day average of new daily cases has reached a record-breaking 2,437. In the past two weeks, the percentage of coronavirus tests that are positive has increased from 18.5% to 21.2%. At least 661 residents have died of the coronavirus and nearly 135,000 have been infected.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a new state of emergency Sunday and issued an executive order that includes a mask mandate. Herbert said hospitalizations and ICUs across Utah are nearing capacity and healthcare providers will be unable to care for Utahns in the coming days if the recent surge continues.
While the state works to slow the spread of the virus, Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs spokesperson Kelsey Price said America’s day to honor veterans certainly won’t be ignored.
The UDVMA, in partnership with the Herbert’s office, is launching an outreach campaign to encourage Utahns to celebrate and honor veterans in their communities. Price said the hashtag #HonorUtahVeterans, will be used to encourage Utahns to strengthen bonds with the state’s veteran community over the next several days.
“This year’s Veterans Day will be unlike any other in recent memory,” Herbert said. “To protect our veterans, especially our older and vulnerable, we cannot gather for traditional observations like parades and ceremonies. However, while we can’t come together, I urge all Utahns to take steps to honor and thank veterans for their service.”
As part of the initiative, Utahns are encouraged to show their gratitude to veterans in the following ways:
Fly an American flag on Veterans Day.
Reach out and thank veterans in the community — whether by phone, letter or video call.
Share messages of support and gratitude for veterans on social media by using the hashtag #HonorUtahVeterans.
Price said if Utahns don’t know a veteran, they are invited to participate in the department’s #HappinessForHeroes initiative and write a letter or send a message to residents at one of Utah’s four veterans homes. The George E. Wahlen Veterans Home serves Northern Utah veterans and is located at 1102 N. 1200 West in Ogden.
“This has been a challenging time for all of us, but especially for veterans,” Gary Harter, executive director of the UDVMA, said in a statement. “Public health steps like social distancing are necessary to help control the spread of COVID-19, but at the same time the pandemic has exacerbated feelings of isolation for many veterans of all ages. Utahns can help make a difference by reaching out to veterans in their local communities.”
According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, there were just under 15,000 veterans living in Weber County between 2012 and 2016. There were another 18,000 vets in Davis County and even more scattered in smaller counties like Box Elder, Morgan, Cache and Rich. At last count, the total number of veterans living in Utah’s six most northern counties was just over 40,000.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says Utah has around 152,000 total veterans.