December 4, 2020
Christmastime brings feelings of hope and a desire to help those in need – sentiments that are greatly needed in 2020.
Developments in the fight against COVID-19 offer additional reason for optimism and cheer this holiday season.
COVID vaccine coming soon
You have likely seen in the news that several COVID-19 vaccine candidates are proving “breathtakingly effective” in initial results from stage 3 (final) testing. This includes high levels of effectiveness in preventing infection, equal effectiveness among high-risk and low-risk populations, and even “100 percent efficacy against severe disease.”
Indications are that administration of the vaccine will start this month. Utah’s COVID vaccine plan calls for healthcare workers who care for COVID patients in hospitals, along with those in long-term care facilities, to get the vaccine first. They will be followed by workers in essential industries, then workers in other industries and high-risk populations, followed by the public at large.
There will certainly be – and indeed should be – debate regarding how vaccinations are prioritized. But despite disagreements there ought to be unanimous optimism over the fact that we have seen an effective new vaccine for a pandemic disease roll out in record time due to the industry-wide focus among prescription drug researchers and manufacturers on discovering a COVID vaccine.
We have had a lot to be discouraged about in 2020. But there also remains much to generate hope and optimism.
Public health guidelines still work
About a month ago, Governor Herbert publicly announced new public health provisions to slow the spread (or the spike, really) of COVID-19 – including a statewide mask mandate and discouragement of social gatherings with people outside your household. About two weeks later, Utah began seeing a significant decline in new cases of COVID-19. The 7-day rolling average of newly diagnosed cases fell from 3,361 to 2,315 in the span of a week, and the daily incidence trend of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people showed a decline for the first time since August.
The positive trend has reversed somewhat in recent days – likely due to large social gatherings for Thanksgiving. But the evidence points to the conclusion that common public health guidelines – wearing masks, social distancing from people not living with you, avoiding large gatherings of people – continue to show effectiveness in limiting the spread of the disease. In other words, we are far from helpless in what we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the disease.
Cheer above concern
None of this is to say that everything is candy canes and lollipops. There remains much in 2020 to be concerned about in our politics and our communities. But what you may not see in the headlines is that there also remains much to be optimistic about this holiday season, even when it comes to the pandemic. So before turning to our social media accounts and embracing unhappiness, let’s turn to our families and embrace the reasons for hope and cheer that Christmas should bring.
Being truly educated means understanding one of the most powerful forces in the world: religion. Being a truly educated American means understanding the importance of protecting that force: freedom of religion.
The Washington model illustrates that by recognizing potential conflicts and enacting appropriate accommodations, schools can do their work without unnecessarily infringing the religious exercise of students. It is a model other states, including Utah, should follow.
Caring for children and families in vulnerable situations is an undoubted public priority, and everyone willing to provide good-faith help is needed.