Tribune Editorial: Protests only make the virus stronger

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protesters walk off after gathering in front of the home of Utah’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Angela Dunn in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020.

There are people in this nation, in this state, who are doing everything within their power to get control of the COVID-19 pandemic, save lives, ease the pressure on our health care system and get everyone back to work, back to school, back to normal.

They give the public the benefit of their advanced education and training, working longer hours and making less money than they would in the private sector.

And what do these people get for their hard work and devotion?

Insults. Death threats. Vandalism of government property. People distributing their personal information and gathering to protest at the private homes of public servants.

It would serve us right if these public health experts would walk away and do what they could to protect themselves and their loved ones and leave the rest of us to work it out for ourselves.

Except, of course, they are smart enough to know that that won’t work. Beating pandemics is an all-or-nothing proposition. Only if the great mass of people listen to the experts, stay home when they can, avoid large gatherings and, most important of all, wear masks, will any of us have a chance of getting back to the kind of life we all miss.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the national focus of efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak for months, and what he gets for his pain includes the need for a personal security detail and a long list of disparaging remarks from the president of the United States.

(Well, he did get to see himself portrayed by Brad Pitt in a Saturday Night Live sketch.)

Dr. Angela Dunn is the epidemiologist for the state of Utah. She has been tireless, and incredibly patient, in trying to get people to understand the deadly seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak in Utah and the obvious steps that we must take, including staying away from large gatherings and wearing masks just about everywhere we go.

But, serving an administration that does little more than plead, and living in a state where far too many people take pride in their resistance to expertise, she can only stand and watch as the number of cases in the state reaches spike after spike and threatens to bring our health care system to its knees.

And then, last week, anti-science activists posted Dunn’s home address on social media and staged two small, but nevertheless threatening, demonstrations in front of her family’s home. An act that was both illegal and stupid.

Even people who think Dunn’s advice is wrong, which it isn’t, should understand that she is a professional civil servant who is doing her job, giving expert advice to the elected policy-makers.

The good news is that the governor — after an initial reaction that was painfully tepid — properly criticized the protest, and Dunn received many messages of support over social media. (If you are listening, SNL, maybe an Angela Dunn sketch starring a glamorous movie star would be in order.)

Meanwhile, Utah remains besieged by social media sites, in-person demonstrations and crowded expressions of stupidity that threaten to give the coronavirus the sustenance it needs to survive and thrive, especially through the winter.

Thus are people who cry the loudest for a return to a normal life doing the most to make that return impossible. They ignore the examples of nations such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, where political leadership and respect for science has the problem all but licked.

If you want to go back to work, wear a mask. If you want your children to go back to school, wear a mask. If you want to go to restaurants and bars and basketball games, wear a mask.

And don’t make the lives of those who devote their lives to safeguarding the public health any more difficult than they already are.