As a tourism community, we had an opportunity to play a leadership role here. Instead of doing the right thing, we promoted a false sense of competency. We inspired others to travel, go out, socialize and generally take risks. The COVID-19 graphs of neighboring states, and those where many of our visitors come from, track our experiment in magical thinking. In Texas, new cases were relatively flat until the end of May. Now they’ve jumped from just over 1,000 per day to over 3,000 per day. California went from under 2,000 to over 4,000. Arizona went from just over 400 to over 2,000. Utah went from under 200 to over 400 daily positives. The Southeast is exploding.
This is not just because of more testing. States that were the hardest hit early, like New York and New Jersey, are steadily reporting fewer new cases. They’ve learned to take things seriously. Elsewhere, we had an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others. Instead, like teenagers, we thought we’d be invincible and live forever. And in the West, our individualism, antipathy to federal advice and disparaging views of easterners have been manipulated to lead us directly into an epidemic.
The hospital says they are ready. What does that mean? “Readiness” for health care administrators means they feel they can efficiently send you to the ICU and the funeral home, without any embarrassment about being caught “unprepared.”
Magical thinking extends to the Southeast Utah Health Department and city government. They let businesses reopen because they invented protocols they said they’ll follow. Where is the follow-up to see protocols are actually being followed? No inspections or enforcement is what employers want. They know they can’t get enough PPE, that they’re not able to sanitize work surfaces often enough, and that even if they tried there’d be little point because so many of their workers live in cars parked next to each other or in densely packed houses. It’s all a big joke that’s funny now, but it won’t be when you and your coworkers start dying.
Owners are willing to risk our lives because they know that if they don’t, their businesses might not survive. They’re between a rock and a hard place, and that’s unfortunate. But there is never going to be a business that is more important than the lives of its employees. How many uranium miners and mill workers have died of cancer around here because that industry also preferred to hope and look the other way instead of seriously investigating workplace safety? We will learn from history, or repeat it.
Moab is a ticking time bomb. Will we defuse it now? Or wait to see what happens?