More Dogs on Main Street
May 8, 2009
It’s official, Park City is the swine flu capital of Utah. Once again, we are way out in front of the rest of the state. It was something of a relief to finally have the Feds confirm that our virus is the swine flu. If we are going to go into panic mode over some virus, it better be the latest, trendiest, and most up-to-the minute one out there. We wouldn’t want to go through all this for some cheap, generic virus from last year. We have standards to uphold around here.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand the science behind it. From all accounts, the swine flu is pretty much like the regular old flu, obnoxious and unpleasant, but in the end, not a big deal for otherwise healthy people. This isn’t small pox or the black plague. The initial statistics from Mexico were that 120 people had died from it. That has been revised to something less than 20, with the other 100 having made a most remarkable recovery. As a friend put it the other night, "I want that doctor." The local cases seem to have run their course. So I’m having a little bit of a problem understanding the reaction.
On the other hand, this is a new, designer virus, and nobody has ever had it before. So when it started spreading around, nobody knew whether it was going to be a week of feeling crappy, or if our skin would turn green and our hair fall out just before we all drop dead. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed something like 50 million people worldwide. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
I guess I understand the reaction of the school district. It seems overly cautious in light of what this flu actually turned out to be. But nobody knew how strong or weak the flu would turn out to be when they had to make the decision to close the schools. There have not been enough cases of swine flu to really know what the "typical" case looks like, so maybe the school closure is reasonable. There’s no question that schools, especially at the lower grades, are incubators for every communicable disease there is. My sister taught kindergarten for years. The first year she was sick all the time. For the rest of her career, she was bullet proof.
Of course the idea of closing the schools was that students would go home, and stay away from each other. In reality, the skateboard park is packed, the movie theaters are doing a lot of business. Park City people are not the sort who will let a vacation opportunity pass. School’s out??—Road Trip!! My guess is the Park City flu has been spread far and wide to Moab, St. George, Fruita, and any other warm weather location.
The TV news coverage of this has been feeding a sense of panic. The Salt Lake TV stations had trucks up here all week, showing the empty school buildings and discussing the urgent need to quarantine the community. The coverage was almost constant, despite there being very little to report. Then on Saturday, when the Federal health people finally got around to confirming that the virus was, in fact, the swine flu, there was nobody here. They fanned the flames of panic all week, but when there was some actual news, they couldn’t interrupt that important Garden Weasel infomercial. The problem was they didn’t want to pay overtime to the news folks on Saturday. So the big news conference we had all been waiting for was not actually covered live. That’s quality news coverage from the big TV folks.
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Speaking of the news conference, the meeting room had the big Park City banner behind the podium, and the Park City logo on the front of the podium. Apparently they wanted to make sure that there was no chance that the announcement of the dreaded flu would be confused with any other tourist destination. "The tests confirm that the mild flu, which the kid has fully recovered from, was swine flu. AND DID I MENTION THAT IT IS IN PARK CITY AND YOU’LL DIE IF YOU VACATION HERE."
By the way, we’re not supposed to call it "swine flu" any more. The pork industry has been hard hit by the hysteria. Apparently people have quit buying pork products because the tin foil hat crowd thinks they will get the flu from eating bacon. Idiots. The whole issue is that this spreads from other people. French kissing a sick pig is not going to give you the flu. Wiping your kid’s nose, on the other hand, is probably life threatening.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to head to Home Depot for more duct tape and plastic sheeting.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.