LOGAN – A local legislative candidate is adding his voice to that of a growing chorus of conservatives demanding that Utah fully reopen its economy.
“I join all Utahns in expressing gratitude that the loss of life from the COVID-19 disease has not been greater,” says Mike Peterson, a local businessman running against incumbent state Rep. Val Potter in Utah’s 3rd Legislative District.
“I continue, however, to be very concerned and saddened by the economic devastation that has occurred in the lives of countless Utahns because of the ‘one size fits all’ approach (to the coronavirus outbreak) that our state leaders have taken.”
On April 30, Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order placing the entire state of Utah under “moderate risk” protocols for the threat of coronavirus infection. That order allowed some businesses to re-open, with statewide social distancing guidelines still in effect.
“I strongly urge Gov. Herbert to end his executive order,” Peterson argues in a recent campaign statement that advocates that Utahns should decide for themselves what health precautions are now necessary. “Utahns are strong and smart. When taught correct principles – such as social distancing – they will wisely govern themselves to good health and prosperity.”
That’s a view shared by state Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who believes that it’s time to stop closing businesses and putting undue regulations and restrictions on residents.
Ray serves on the Health and Human Services Committee in the Utah House and is a member of the COVID-19 Community Task Force who opposed Utah’s policy of closing businesses and schools. Like Peterson, he says that the state should immediately move to a normal threat level and let people choose for themselves whether to go out or not.
“Having been told (by health experts during the 2009 swine flu pandemic) that no healthy individual should be forced into quarantine,” Ray says, “I am now furious to have that happen during the very next pandemic.”
But the advice of health experts is strongly endorsed by advocacy groups like the Alliance for a Better Utah.
“It is precisely because Utah listened to the experts that we have been able to prevent the mass spread of the virus,” according to Lauren Simpson, the ABU’s policy director.
Ray counters, however, that health officials have “zero focus” on the economy and don’t care that the shut-down they imposed is killing businesses. The Utah Restaurant Association, for example, estimates that 25 percent of Utah eateries will never re-open.
“The best stimulus package that we could give (to Utah) is to open our businesses up and let them revive the economy,” Ray insists. “That won’t cost the taxpayers a dime.”
Peterson believes that the COVID-19 statistics released by Utah’s health districts themselves prove that the state’s “one size fits all” approach to battling the coronavirus outbreak was a mistake.
“As of May 3, 11 of the state’s 13 local public health departments had each reported two or fewer deaths from COVID-19,” the candidate emphasized. “Utah and Salt Lake counties are the only exceptions with 9 and 31 deaths respectively …
“Although the Bear River Health Department has reported only a single COVID-19 death, we are under the same restrictions … as Salt Lake and Utah counties. Five public health departments have reported no deaths and they too are under the same statewide restrictions.”
“The state’s action over the past few months,” Peterson concludes, “are a powerful example of the truth Thomas Jefferson taught when he said: ‘The government closest to the people serves the people best’.”