SALT LAKE CITY – After months of silence about Utah’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson has launched a broadside attack on the state’s management of that crisis.
“Utah’s COVID-19 response so far is a story of failed leadership,” Peterson charged, speaking at a press conference held on the corner of 1st Avenue and State Street in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. “The worst part of the pandemic both in terms of public health and economic harm is still ahead of us. If our public servants do not lead, we are risking an economic and health catastrophe.”
During the run-up to the primary balloting on June 30, former House Speaker Greg Hughes criticized the state’s coronavirus response as an over-reach that violated Utahns’ constitutional rights. But Peterson has now questioned the competence of Gov. Gary Herbert and gubernatorial rival Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, saying that the state has not taken the bold preemptive steps necessary to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
Peterson was joined at the press conference by Dr. Bryan Poole, a microbiologist from Brigham Young University. In brief remarks, Poole emphasized that substantial revisions to Utah’s coronavirus response were needed.
The first of those changes, according to Peterson, should be a statewide mandate for Utahns to wear facemasks in both in-door and out-door public spaces where social distancing is not possible. On advice from experts at the Centers for Disease Control, more than 20 states have already issued similar orders.
“Facemasks are a simple and time-tested tool that can limit the invisible virus engulfing our neighborhoods,” he said.
Peterson also demanded other revisions to the statewide coronavirus response including:
- The development of an emergency plan for the production, procurement and stockpiling of N95 respirator masks for frontline health care workers. Those masks have been proven to be 95 percent effective in filtering small airborne particles, including bacteria and viruses.
- The development and implementation of emergency plans to provide adequate coronavirus testing for Utahns. Utah currently ranks 37th among U.S. states in COVID-19 testing, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute. Such testing is critical, Peterson argued, because asymptomatic people can still transmit the virus to others.
- The development and implementation of a plan to provide resources necessary to safely reopen Utah’s public schools in August. According to Peterson, those resources must include COVID-19 testing and tracing protocols, plus adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.
- The development and implementation of improved contact tracing efforts to suppress the spread of the coronavirus. Peterson said the state’s $6 million web app has failed to successfully trace the sources of the ongoing outbreak. He recommended coordinating with tech-giants Apple and Google to use their free technology for that purpose.
Peterson’s running mate, Karina Brown of Nibley, also spoke at the press conference to defend the need to rapid improvement of the state’s response to the coronavirus.
“The aggressive, preventive efforts we make now to stop the spread of the virus will mean a safer educational environment for Utah children and teachers, plus a safer work environment for businesses,” Brown said. “Utahns have come together in the past to overcome difficult challenges and now is the time to unite in our efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.”