Record editorial: Governor’s forceful COVID actions are better late than never |

Record editorial: Governor’s forceful COVID actions are better late than never

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gary Herbert has finally admitted what many people have understood since the spring: Rather than appealing to Utahns’ sense of responsibility, the state must take forceful action to curb COVID-19.

Herbert on Sunday took his strongest steps yet to counter the coronavirus spike that has rapidly grown out of control, ordering a statewide mask mandate as well as banning social gatherings involving people from separate households and halting school athletics and other extracurricular activities for two weeks, among other measures.

It would have been encouraging to see a statewide mask order enacted in the early summer, when Summit County implemented its mandate. Instead, Herbert and other state leaders spent months imploring people to do the right thing, to no avail as too many Utahns continued not taking the coronavirus seriously enough.

It’s better late than never. Let’s just hope the opportunity has not slipped away to get the pandemic under control before the winter.

Right now, the situation looks more daunting than ever. The seven-day rolling average of coronavirus cases in the state hit 2,437 on Sunday. The intensive care unit utilization rate reached 75%. Both numbers indicate that we are in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet.

Masks and social distancing work, but we are now facing an even tougher uphill battle. Corralling the coronavirus when there are about 40,000 active cases in the state — almost enough people to fill Rice-Eccles Stadium — will be immensely challenging.

Most unsettling is the reality that there are few other means at the state’s disposal to slow the virus, short of another shutdown of businesses and schools. Would the governor (and the Legislature) seriously consider taking that step, or allowing local officials in hard-hit areas to do so?

That remains to be seen. But what’s clear is that there isn’t much time to reverse the trends before leaders may be forced to decide between shuttering the economy and allowing hospitals to become overwhelmed.

Any hope of avoiding that scenario relies on the governor’s latest strategy working and on Utahns at last rising to the challenge of stopping COVID.

To some extent, we’ve met the challenge in Summit County. Local leaders implemented some of the strongest measures in the state to combat the pandemic, and most residents have adhered to the guidance from health experts.

But even here, case numbers are ballooning. It’s apparent that, while most of us are masking up and staying away from others, not all of us are doing enough.

At long last, Herbert did his part. Now we must all follow suit as the prospect of a grim winter stares us straight in the face.

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