Thumbs up, thumbs down: Who deserves praise and criticism this week?
David Sagae, left, an Intermountain Healthcare phlebotomist, cleans up after administering a COVID-19 test on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, outside the Weber County Library System facility in Ogden. Katherine Bergquist, another Intermountain Healthcare phlebotomist, stands on the right.
Parents calling for full in-person reopening of schools stand outside the Davis School District administrative building on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.
Gage Thorpe, right, was recognized Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, at a West Haven City Council meeting for helping his family safely exit their West Haven home during a July 22, 2020, fire. He's photographed here before the meeting with, from left, sister Keegan Finn, mom Melanie Finn and stepdad Jim Finn.
Here we go again.
Just as it appeared Utah had gained a level of control over COVID-19 with nearly two months of declining or stabilized case counts, the Beehive State is buzzing again. According to state data, Utah’s daily average of new cases has jumped markedly in the last two weeks. On Friday, when the state recorded its highest number of positive tests than at any other point during the pandemic (1,117), that rolling 7-day average totaled 726 — also a new record. That’s nearly double last week’s measure of 381 cases per day.
Health experts attribute the disease’s resurgence in large part to the physical return of students to the classroom and on college campuses. Utah County, in particular, has been the biggest hot spot, accounting for 40% of the new cases.
Unsurprisingly, Gov. Gary Herbert has now floated the idea of a statewide mask mandate and said coronavirus testing will be expanded and made available to all who want it, regardless of whether they’re experiencing symptoms.
No one wants government to have to take that forceful step, but in the absence of a vaccine, people have to be willing to voluntarily participate in protective actions like mask wearing on their own.
Do your part and stick with it. This too shall pass, but until it has, wear a mask and social distance.
Given the information presented above, it seems ill-timed for the Davis School District to be moving in the direction of five-day, in-person schooling.
The district’s board of education voted this week to adopt a two-phase transition plan that would move away from its hybrid model, in which students are in school buildings two days each week, to an eventual five-day schedule.
The transition wouldn’t begin for a couple of weeks, and no one knows how COVID-19 levels will look at that time, but the state is clearly moving in the wrong direction. And while the Davis district has done a commendable job so far keeping students and staff safe and limiting quarantines, that could easily change.
Of course, this is one time we’d gladly be wrong.
Way to go, Gage!
Let us heap on the praise for West Haven teen Gage Thorpe, who recently was recognized by city officials for his quick action the morning of July 22, when fire quickly engulfed his family’s home.
Despite the smoke alarm not activating, Thorpe, 19, awakened and noticed the orange glow outside his third-floor bedroom. He immediately called out to his parents, roused his sister from her slumber and proceeded downstairs to exit the burning structure.
But he then heard his sibling’s cries for help and turned back, despite smoke so thick he could barely see a foot in front of him.
That selflessness and quick action earned Thorpe accolades from the Weber Fire District and West Haven City Council, as well as family and friends.
“They’re like, ‘You’re a hero,'” he said. “It feels weird being called that.”
If the shoe fits …
The numbers are in, and the news isn’t good.
The Utah Department of Transportation released its annual traffic fatality report on the “100 Deadliest Days,” which showed that 102 roadway deaths occurred this summer — a 70% rise over the same period in 2019, but more in line with historical totals — despite a reduction in vehicles motoring about during the coronavirus outbreak. And looked at for the entire year so far, traffic deaths are similarly inflated compared to 2019.
We share UDOT’s disappointment that last year’s low figure wasn’t matched again. Driving is fraught with risk, but deaths are preventable as long as the proper care is taken, although true accidents do happen.
Let this report be a reminder to us all to respect the profound privilege undertaken when operating a 1.5 ton machine.