Kincart: The Right Way to Honor Victims of COVID-19


(Photo by J. Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sydney Kincart, Print Chief, Opinion Writer


To honor those who have died of COVID-19, Gov. Spencer Cox ordered that on Jan. 19, the bells at the State Capitol ring 15 times in honor of the 1,500 Utahns who have died since March 2020. Utah recently ranked in the top five states with the worst COVID-19 rates. If we really want to honor those who died to COVID-19, policies should be put in place to prevent such extreme rates. We’re currently experiencing our first full general legislative session during the pandemic, and our legislature has the chance to change Utah’s pandemic response. The best way to honor those who have died to COVID-19 is through action and policy — not symbolic appeals.

Administrative Action

Looking back to last semester, students should have been required to take a COVID test weekly if not biweekly. It is essential that the virus be caught by a test in the short period it can be detected to avoid major spreading. This allows for more precise contact tracing and isolating. Dr. Emily Spivak, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, spoke to me about its larger implications. “It’s pretty clear from universities and campuses across the country that have some sort of regular testing for students and faculty that they actually have lower rates of COVID,” she said.

Yet, the state abandoned its plans requiring all college students to take weekly tests. Although students living on campus are required to be tested weekly, this isn’t happening at all other universities in Utah. Many COVID-19 spikes started with young people, so testing them is an important way to prevent spread. Because the state failed us by giving up routine testing requirements, it’s up to universities to act. Universities need to act now and start testing their students at least once a week. This process must be followed by clear guidelines for reporting symptoms and timely contact tracing effort. Regular testing means little without a good contact tracing system since the virus is prone to spreading.

Legislative Action

We need to recognize that simply applauding the efforts of people through a resolution isn’t enough. H.C.R 6, Concurrent Resolution Recognizing COVID-19 Efforts, is yet another symbolic example. Instead, we must actively support those who assist us throughout the pandemic. Passing S.B. 1, Public Education Base Budget Amendments, would give back to teachers. These amendments, among other actions, offer a stipend to educators. Although the stipend is minimal, any support is good support.

It’s also important that H.J.R 4, Joint Resolution Approving Acceptance of Federal Funds, is passed. Passing this bill means that we accept the funds offered by the federal government to help Utah’s fight against COVID-19. That being said, our legislature must do more. Prioritizing affordable healthcare is yet another way to help constituents weather the pandemic. For instance, insulin must be made affordable to help a population that is at a greater risk for contracting the virus. I urge the legislature to look at the disparities present in this pandemic and find ways to support the most vulnerable populations.

Executive Action

When the pandemic started, then-Lt. Governor Spencer Cox was appointed to lead the state’s coronavirus task force. Cox’s initial drive towards preventative action has now dwindled into trivial symbolic actions. Right now, Cox should enforce a mask mandate. Although he is quoted encouraging people to “upgrade the quality of your masks,” we need to see more than just talk. Masks will be important for the duration of the pandemic, regardless of whether some people are vaccinated.

A mask mandate is imperative because the new strain of COVID-19 is potentially more contagious, and as such scientists have recommended double masking — Dr. Spivak recommended that students’ cloth masks have multiple layers to combat the more contagious strains. We saw what happened when the governor waited too long to issue a mask mandate — our hospitals neared capacity. The same goes for the ban on casual social gatherings. Cox should learn from the mistakes of former Governor Herbert and take immediate executive action on these preventative measures in order to see cases decrease. This is essential if we want to eventually see an end to the pandemic.

Utah has lost too many lives to COVID-19. It’s important we honor those lives through more than just symbolic recognition. These policies, whether administrative, executive or legislative, should be aimed at preventing infections and supporting workers. Let’s hold our officials accountable for implementing policy solutions to combat COVID-19 and support those most affected by it.


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