With our state and national government encouraging the opening of some businesses with a long-term goal of returning to normal activity, we must not end the preventative measures we can each take to limit the spread of COVID-19. I fear that too many have taken the governments minor adjustment in staying home as some indication that we are out of the woods. This could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, what I have seen since May 1st around the community suggests many think we are past the threat (e.g. few are wearing masks, people are going out in groups again, many kids playing on park toys, etc.).
In my professional opinion as a health and wellness professor, the reason it has not spread here in Utah like it did in New York or Europe is because we have all been holed up in our homes across the state. We were able to intervene and closedown early before the virus had spread like it had elsewhere. Our distance from urban centers has simply delayed the hit to our community, not made us immune from its spread. Despite extreme measures of staying home across Utah, we have continued to average just below 200 new cases per day across the state. Had we not closed so many things down I guarantee it would have been significantly worse, and it is far from over.
Just because some government or organizational leaders suggest we open things back up does not mean we have suddenly reached a point where the virus is no longer a risk, or it is no longer contagious. Based on scientific data, simply opening everything back up and going back to normal life will likely result in the spread of the virus like we have yet to see in Utah. We cannot assume everything is normal until we have a vaccine and/or guaranteed treatment for the masses (estimates are 2021). Until that time, this virus will continue to spread. Period.
To make a slow opening across the state work we MUST be diligent in our efforts when we are out. We must all wear masks (this prevents unintended particulates from your mouth and nose from landing on surfaces others will touch, thus spreading the virus if you are a carrier). We must not shake hands, hug, or physically touch others (except your immediate family you live with). We must maintain 6-feet of distance from everyone else (prevents airborne spread). We must frequently wash our hands or sanitize when touching things others may have touched (e.g. doorknobs, shopping carts, credit card machines) and if we touch our own faces (you may be a carrier of the virus and not know it).
If you have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell), stay home. If you are in a high risk group or around someone that is (asthma, lung disease, diabetes, heart conditions, kidney disease, obesity, high blood pressure, liver disease, immunocompromised, living in a care facility, or 65+ in age), be extremely cautious.
If we are reckless now, we may be forced into another shutdown, which none of us want. We cannot maintain a permanent shutdown and survive economically, nor can we return to business as usual without causing significant increases in cases and deaths. So, let’s all be VERY diligent to prevent the spread if we go out so we can avoid a death surge and another government-required shutdown. The lives and economic needs of our community depend upon our responsible preventative responses.