Tribune Editorial: COVID vaccine hasn’t come to Utah’s rescue yet

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2020, file photo, a customer walks past a sign indicating that a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available at Walgreens in Long Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

Most automobile accidents happen within 15 miles of home. The most dangerous part of any aircraft flight is the landing.

While there is reason to hope that medical science will have the weaponry it needs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic to a standoff in the coming months, the supply lines are going to be long and difficult to maintain. Any thought that the worst is over and life can start returning to normal must be avoided.

We want our children to be able to return to school just as soon as they safely can do so. No one should have to suffer through another lost year of education.

For that to happen, other aspects of our society may have to wait. And as workers and businesses, cities and states, deal with sometimes crippling losses of revenue, the federal government must step in to prime the pump of the economy with billions more in stimulus.

Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney is among a bipartisan group pushing a new $908 billion aid package. That’s a start. Though that money, and whatever comes after it, needs to be distributed as widely, as quickly and as transparently as possible. And very little of it should go to businesses operated by presidents or their sons-in-law.

For anyone not paying close attention, news that a handful of new vaccines for COVID-19 have been developed and will be reaching Utah as soon as this month may carry as much threat as hope if people assume that the pandemic has been beaten.

We learned Thursday that the number of doses that will be available in Utah in a couple of weeks will barely be enough to immunize front-line medical staff — doctors, nurses and, a group particularly hard-hit, housekeepers. And even then, the vaccine will be focused on a handful of hospitals handling the most coronavirus patients — University Hospital and LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah Valley Hospital in Provo and Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George.

Making vaccines available to residents and staff at long-term care facilities, the early epicenters of coronavirus outbreaks, will, of course, be next.

And schoolteachers and staff must be added to that list just as soon as it is practical. Vaccinations appropriate for those under 18 will not, apparently, be ready until sometime well into next school year, but inoculating faculty and staff will help avoid the horrible prospect of another lost school year.

In the short term, though, things are only going to get worse before they get better.

Cold weather, virus fatigue, holiday travel, economic pressures and unrelenting rivers of misinformation have led experts such as Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to say of the months ahead, “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert expressed worry at what he quite insufficiently called an “uptick” in cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

Coronavirus cases are rising again in Utah and across the nation. Deaths in the U.S., now totaling some 273,000, could reach 450,000 by February, Redfield said. Though he said that number could be mitigated if people continue — or begin — wearing masks and keeping their distance.

An interesting idea put forward by a former congressman and presidential candidate, John Delaney, is to pay every person who receives a COVID-19 inoculation $1,500. That would provide some much-needed economic stimulus to the whole economy as it drew in people who might otherwise be hesitant to get the jab.

Two shots in the arm at the same time.

While the rest of us are waiting for our turn for the vaccine, we should be encouraged to double down on our personal precautions. Heed the advice of the president-elect and wear a mask for the first 100 days of his administration. Respect other people’s space.

Nobody wants to be the last person to die of COVID.