Utah leaders are betting they won’t be blamed for deaths, closed schools and other economic damage, George Pyle writes

COVID-19 rebounds as the selfishness of a few overwhelms the rights of the many

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Green Pig Pub enforced mask use inside its establishment, Dec. 3, 2020.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

— Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Part III

I’m not sure how much more of this freedom I can take.

Just when it was looking like we all should be able to go shopping, take in sporting events — and, my favorite thing in the world, set up my laptop in a coffee shop and pretend to work for hours on end for the price of a London fog and a day-old muffin — all without worrying that we were putting ourselves or someone else in biohazard danger, the numbers started to go the wrong way.

It should, by now, be as easy as it ever was to send our children to school. And there certainly should be no fear that, should I have a heart attack or cut off my thumb while slicing a bagel, there would be no room for me at the hospital.

But, by gum and by golly, no commie pinko is making me wear a mask or get a vaccination.

Sorry, the trade isn’t worth it.

The only measure of freedom that seems to matter to Utah’s political class — and to the vocal, know-nothing minority of us who overwhelm county council and school board meetings — is for there to be no government mask mandates or vaccination requirements. So all those other freedoms we had taken for granted are, once again, being denied us.

I really miss them.

This is what happens when people haven’t read the Declaration of Independence and think that the freedom to live, move, breathe, saunter and improve ourselves begins and ends with limitations on what government can tell us to do.

We want limits on government. But we also want government for the limits it puts on street gangs, air pollution, raw sewage, scam artists, floods, fires, hamburger with bits of rat in it, medicine made mostly of sawdust, airplanes slamming into each other and cars zipping through residential areas at 70 mph.

Not that you couldn’t find a constituency for legalizing just about every one of those things. Because freedom.

We all know the Ben Franklin line about how surrendering liberty to buy security earns you neither liberty nor security. But denying the government’s — the civilization’s — ability to place expectations on individual behavior for the greater good is not freedom. It’s chaos.

People who insist on being able to carry a deadly virus, like people who demand the right to carry guns on city streets, run noisy off-road vehicles in quiet national parks or collect a $10,000 bounty on a friend of a Texas woman of childbearing age, are not exercising freedom. They are limiting the freedom of everyone around them.

Those of us who are fully vaccinated and are OK wearing masks are still not as safe as we should be, as safe as we would be if everyone else took the same reasonable precautions.

It isn’t the government that is telling me it’s a bad idea to hang out in restaurants or bars. That the joy of full houses in movie theaters, Jazz games and The Nutcracker may be something I shouldn’t be getting my hopes up for.

That even if our schools don’t close down again, too many families where someone is vulnerable due to being a cancer patient or transplant recipient are having to make an impossible choice about whether to risk sending their children back to the classroom.

It’s the pandemic that’s doing all of that. The pandemic that, had people around here been bright enough to flock to the emergency vaccination stations that were set up in convention centers and planned for pro sports arenas, we might well already be saying goodbye to.

A year ago, state officials were holding daily press conferences to put out yet another set of scary numbers, urge us to wash our hands, keep our distance and order carry-out. To warn us that, if we didn’t do all that, our hospitals and ICUs would be overwhelmed.

Disaster fatigue has ended those top-level media availabilities. But case counts are just as bad and there’s not a spare ICU bed to be found. Increasingly, those beds are filled by young adults and children, the demographic we used to think was immune.

And instead of acting as they would to protect us from porn, critical race theory or concealed carry permits, Utah’s elected leaders are bragging about the wonderful job they have done at following the lead of internet-borne garbage over the advice of medical experts.

It’s clear that Gov. Spencer Cox, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams have done the political math and decided that if the state requires, or allows local governments to require, masks and vaccines, they will get the blame from the people whose decibel level is inversely proportional to their wisdom.

But, the politicians’ calculations suggest, they won’t get blamed for the illness, death, lingering heart and kidney conditions, closed schools, lost business, evictions and other economic damage that, absent more aggressive measures, are sure to result from the rise of the Delta variant.

It is up to their previously silent constituents to let them know they are wrong.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) George Pyle.

George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, has forgotten how to tie a necktie. And maybe his shoes.


Twitter, @debatestate