Record editorial: Summit County officials display leadership in response to COVID-19
If there was ever a time for leadership, this is it.
It’s not hyperbole to say that lives depend on the decisions people in power have made in recent weeks and the ones they will make in the coming months. That’s true nationally and at the state level, and it’s also a reality locally, where rapid spreading of the coronavirus has made us one of the country’s hot spots, judged on a per-capita basis.
Fortunately, the response from Summit County officials — most notably Health Director Rich Bullough, who wields broad powers during health crises — has been commensurate with the moment. Against a once-unimaginable backdrop, and with little margin for error, they’ve made painful but prudent decisions in an attempt to spare Summit County from the worst of the pandemic.
In mid-March, even as there were just a handful of confirmed cases in the county, officials essentially shut down the resort economy after discovering the first known local instance of community spread. As the number of patients continued to increase, the county last week ratcheted its response up to a new level, becoming the first government in Utah to issue a stay-at-home order, forcing the closure of many more businesses and requiring residents to stay put except for essential trips like going to the grocery store.
It will be weeks, if not months, before the efficacy of the actions is clear. And more steps may be in the offing as the situation continues to evolve.
But at this point, Bullough and other officials like Summit County Manager Tom Fisher have earned our praise and gratitude for their willingness to make difficult, unpleasant decisions in the interest of ensuring health care facilities like the Park City Hospital do not encounter a spike in coronavirus patients they are not equipped to handle.
It is possible that some businesses will not recover from the county-imposed restrictions. Workers who have lost jobs, too, may find it challenging to regain stable footing, though in both scenarios, state and federal aid will hopefully cushion the blow.
Regardless, our leaders tasked with coordinating the county’s response to the pandemic know an important truth. The economic pain is justified if even one Summit County resident lives who would otherwise die, if one family is able to rejoice at a sick loved one’s recovery rather than mourn their passing.
With 181 known patients in the county as of Tuesday — and officials fearing that a lack of testing obscures many more cases — we are in a frightening reality and face an uncertain path ahead.
We can be assured, though, that Bullough and other county officials have the leadership to see us through the crisis and the wisdom to use the health and safety of residents as their guiding beacon.
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