As the Utah Legislature revisits our state budget during an interim session in June and the U.S. Senate considers action on another stimulus bill, I would ask our Utah legislators and our U.S. congressional delegation to reflect on two basic questions.
First, what are our values as a society? Second, what programs and spending will allow us to rebound the most quickly, once the pandemic is over?
Please also note that control of the epidemic and economic health are two sides of one coin. Economic recovery will not happen while the pandemic continues.
Some of the resource priorities that should flow in answer to those two basic questions include those needed to:
- Provide a strong public health response and insure access to medical care for those who fall ill.
- Prevent dramatic increases in homelessness and hunger.
- Ensure that small businesses can survive to reopen once it is safe to do so.
- Ensure that our children's education is not irreparably harmed and that return to the classroom can be done safely.
Finally, some aspects of Utah’s response have been/are concerning, namely:
- Failure to quickly implement clear, mandatory statewide restrictions.
- Stripping of the ability of cities and counties to independently impose restrictions.
- Failure to comprehensively test and screen high risk populations in care facilities, prisons, and other human “repositories.”
- Reopening prematurely without nuanced thinking around which specific activities can resume/venues open.
A second wave seems sure to follow premature reopening and disregard for the simple precaution of universal mask wearing and the limiting of gatherings. A second wave will be worse than the first and another round of shutdown will be even more economically devastating than the first. Furthermore, it will be more difficult to impose.
Ellen Brady, M.D., Murray