Utah readying million dollar campaign to encourage wearing of masks in public

Herbert Mask 01

Watch for a new $1 million state government public service announcement campaign coming that will encourage Utahns to wear masks, use social distancing in public and make other changes in their lives to help fight to coronavirus, which is expanding in Utah.

Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson met with Gov. Gary Herbert Wednesday afternoon for an update on how the state is doing in fighting the virus — and as we all know it has taken a turn for the worse in the Beehive State.

The new Public Service Announcement will be out soon, said Adams.

“I’m adamant about this: We have to get our virus screening tests down to 24-hour turnaround,” said Adams.

“We’ve been at this” fighting the virus “for four months now, and we aren’t any better at testing (turnaround) than we were at the start.”

That is just unacceptable, said Adams, who himself tested positive for coronavirus antibodies several weeks ago — perhaps getting it at the very end of the grueling 45-day general legislative session in mid-March, although his symptoms were not serious.

Adams said he’s heard that Walgreens in Nevada are getting a 20-minute test turnaround. “I don’t know how they are doing it. But we have to do better here” in Utah with testing, the Senate president said.

Maybe that can be done by bringing in outside testing programs to Utah, but whatever it takes, it has to be done “or we will never get on top of this” virus battle, he added.

In fact, while as Herbert likes to say the state is well-positioned to come out economically strong when the virus is finally put down in the U.S., for now, daily cases are rising quickly in Utah. The governor says if the rolling seven-day average of new cases don’t drop to around 500 (it is now around 600 or more) by Aug. 1, then look for some tough new measures, like state mandatory mask-wearing in public.

But Adams, himself, doesn’t see it coming to that.

People are getting the message that voluntary mask-wearing has to happen, the Senate president told UtahPolicy.com after his meeting with Herbert.

The governor has been holding a virtual press conference about every week, and Adams said Herbert will have an important announcement when he next speaks to the reporters and the public.

Salt Lake County has a mandatory public mask-wearing order, and Adams doesn’t think that county is doing much better than his own Davis County, which doesn’t have such a mandatory order.

“I believe we’ve turned a corner,” said Adams, and the voluntary mask push is getting through to Utahns.

Adams said one of his main concerns about August and September, when kids start going back to school in some manner, is that all Utah school children get the same opportunities.

“I don’t want to see some kid who lives on one side of the street getting to go to school, while his neighbor across the street doesn’t get to” go in person.

“If one kid gets to play football, the others should as well,” said Adams.

One concern is that some Utah high school seniors, trying to get an athletic scholarship to college may miss out on their final high school sports season, while some other seniors in other parts of the state get to play ball — or whatever their sport is.

If testing doesn’t improve, said Adams, then those who get a test but are waiting four or five days for the result may be infecting others if in fact, they have the disease.

While those who may not have the coronavirus, but are being careful and are self-isolating, are not at work earning a paycheck, thus harming the overall economy.

Either way, said Adams, infected or not, Utahns can’t afford to have multi-day waits to see if they have the virus or not, he said.