Park City official again asserts little being done to combat coronavirus increases
City councilor expresses worry during important discussion with health official
A member of the Park City Council on Thursday remained especially concerned about the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, questioning for the second time in three weeks the recent efforts at the Statehouse and County Courthouse to combat the sickness.
City Councilor Steve Joyce delivered some of the notable comments during a meeting between Park City’s elected officials and Phil Bondurant, who is the Summit County health director, that was scheduled amid rising worries at City Hall. The state and county governments set health policies rather than the municipal government, and Park City officials desired the discussion on Thursday as the ski season approaches.
Joyce contended there has been little action designed to combat recent coronavirus numbers, saying statistics indicate “we should really be panicking right now.”
“The ICUs are jammed, the hospitals are overflowing, elective surgeries are off the table again,” Joyce said. “… Our neighboring states are closing things down and … basically deciding who lives and who dies. And yet as a state we’re kind of doing nothing.”
He added: “Neither the state nor Summit County appear to be doing anything that says OK, if it gets to here, whatever here is, we’re going to start putting mask mandates, or distancing, or close down events or something. And it just feels like everybody’s, like, ‘Yeah, we’re at high.’”
Joyce in early September delivered comments resembling those he made on Thursday. Joyce at that time said “by all measures we should be taking big action and, honestly, we’re doing nothing, really, and it’s beginning to worry me.”
Bondurant responded on Thursday by explaining that the availability of vaccines is the difference between the current situation and the early months of the pandemic, when health officials took dramatic steps with shutdowns to attempt to curb the spread of the sickness.
He also said Summit County and state attorneys have indicated caution needs to be taken when considering public health orders at this point with vaccination rates as high as they are. Orders would need to be defended, he said.
“We’ve been told that if you implement a mask order, whether it be in an event, or you implement some order that is challenged in court and is stricken down because your data do not support that, that’s a one-and-done deal,” he said.
Bondurant said strong evidence would be needed to defend a mask order if one is eventually pursued. If the case numbers are found to be manageable, a mask order could be challenged in court, he said.
“If we lost that we would not have that ace in the hole should things get really bad,” he said.
Bondurant, meanwhile, told the elected officials Summit County reached a plateau in cases on Thursday and projections anticipate “significant reduction in both cases and hospitalizations” in coming months.
“We’re seeing some really good numbers compared to the rest of the state,” he said.
The elected officials requested the briefing from the Health Department amid the concerns about the continuing cases and as the winter and ski season approach. There is worry about the possibility of cases climbing once the cold weather sets in and the crowds arrive with the opening of the mountain resorts.
Becca Gerber, another member of the City Council, told Bondurant she is hearing concern from businesses about the spread of the sickness in the work force. There are many Park City workers who live outside of the city, she said, adding that if they contract the coronavirus the case is counted wherever they live rather than in Park City.
“I know that there have been a number of breakthrough cases, and I know of several breakthrough cases from people who work here in Park City that live in Heber. And, again, it’s all anecdotal, but I think that that’s where the concern comes from … there are people who are having breakthrough cases but spend all day in Park City, every day,” Gerber said.
Bondurant told Gerber contact tracing and investigations are still occurring.
The meeting on Thursday was an important one as City Hall and the County Courthouse continue to attempt to coordinate the overall response to the pandemic. The Park City leaders were not scheduled to make decisions regarding any steps the municipal government could take, but further discussions are likely to occur later in the fall.
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