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Don’t let Utah’s top lawmakers stand in the way of the answer to the pandemic, Editorial Board writes

Adams and Wilson should not only hear from people who want to block Biden’s vaccine mandate for business.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, left, and House Speaker Brad R. Wilson, R-Kaysville, at the Utah State Capitol, Jan. 27, 2020.

Utah’s two top lawmakers are asking the state’s business community to join them in their crusade to crash the economy, disrupt the educational system, overload our hospitals, prolong the misery associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and see to it that more of us get sick and slowly die, all for the joy of owning the libs.

In a Sept. 21 letter addressed to “Utah Business Owners and Employees,” Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson invite their allies to an Oct. 4 committee meeting at the Utah Capitol for a brainstorming session on how to oppose the pending order from President Joe Biden that would require all businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate either vaccinations or weekly coronavirus tests for those workers.

Every business metric that exists screams for intervention, and the solution is staring us in the face. Mask mandates and vaccination requirements work and are necessary.

There is reason to fear that such mandates will just cause some people to rebel and act against their own interests. But that’s why Utah needs some real leadership to move the public to accept the necessity of vaccination mandates and not encourage their adolescent rebellion.

Instead, Utah’s political class is not just adrift. It has deliberately created a leadership vacuum, one that is anti-business, and destructive of just about everything else we claim to value.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that, just from June through August of this year, preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults have cost the U.S. economy more than $5 billion.

It is appalling, but not at all surprising, that Adams and Wilson have apparently not sought the advice of anyone who actually knows anything about public health.

If we are lucky, they might hear from some business owners or workers who realize that their livelihoods are not threatened by Biden’s plan. Who are aware that another winter of people gathered in close quarters, too few of us vaccinated, too many of us without masks, is the clear and present danger that threatens to close schools, ruin businesses, cause another round of evictions, all while crushing our health care system and making it far too difficult for those with non-COVID ailments to get even the most urgent of care.

“Utah has always been home to business-friendly policies, and that will not end now,” Adams and Wilson write.

Actually, a state that does all it can to protect the public’s health is the one that is business-friendly. It creates an atmosphere in which commerce can flourish without the cloud of a deadly pandemic hovering over it.

“As leaders of the state, we will protect your rights as private businesses and your personal liberties as employees,” the leaders say.

But they ignore the rights and personal liberties of people — entrepreneurs and employees among them — who will be more likely to get sick or who, because of special health circumstances of their own, reasonably feel that they cannot go to stores or to restaurants, cannot take in a basketball game, cannot even safely send their children to school, because of state inaction.

Legally, the legislative leaders’ are engaged in little more than a political Kabuki. A state doesn’t have the power to negate a president’s executive order or an act of Congress. If it did, all federal health and safety regulations, from meat inspection to auto fuel standards, would be at risk.

And any lawsuit arguing that Biden’s order isn’t in keeping with federal workplace safety statutes would have to be brought by someone actually affected by that order. That is, a business owner or an employee who doesn’t want to comply.

Adams, meanwhile, has trotted off on another tangent, talking up an experimental coronavirus remedy called monoclonal antibody treatment. It’s an option worth having, but it’s expensive and only effective if administered within a very narrow window after diagnosis. Promoting it risks giving the vaccine-hesitant another flimsy excuse for ducking the jab with the idea that they can just get the infusion later.

This diversion is not unlike the effort Adams and others made back in the spring of 2020 to promote the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, even though medical experts warned that it was dangerous and wasn’t effective against COVID. Back then, at least, such desperation made some sense because we didn’t have a vaccine. Now we do. And it deserves to be the focus of all recovery efforts.

The meeting Adams and Wilson have invited their allies to is the Business and Labor Interim Committee public hearing, at 9 a.m. on Oct. 4 in Room 30 of the House Building. Virtual participation, by far the best option under the circumstances, is available through le.utah.gov. And members of the House and Senate can be reached here or here.

All communications and contacts should be civil and respectful. And our leaders need to know when they are so clearly pulling us in the wrong direction.


Correction: The original version of this editorial incorrectly described the policy of the Tooele School District and its enforcement of the state’s Test to Stay rule. The rule requiring students who have not been tested for COVID-19 to remain at home is being enforced, though teachers were instructed to refer students who should be excluded to administrators rather than risk confrontations with students or their parents.

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