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0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02e0000KPCW's COVID-19 news coverage for Summit County and Wasatch County, Utah. 0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02f0000You can also visit the Utah Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization websites for additional information.

After Months Of Pandemic, Is Covid Messaging Accepted In Summit County?

Summit County Health Department

While Covid-19 vaccines are starting to arrive in Summit County, and mainstream distribution is expected in the warmer months, Summit County health officials say that citizens still have to mask up, follow social distancing and wash their hands.

At Monday’s Board of Health meeting, they said that businesses have been cooperative, but it’s still often difficult for the messaging to be accepted by average citizens.  

For several weeks, County Health Director Rich Bullough has been reporting to the Health Board that recent surges are being driven by family gatherings or household parties.

Bullough said that it’s been difficult for their messaging to change irresponsible behavior.    It’s facing an uphill battle, in particular during the recent holiday season.       

“This comes down to personal behavior at this point in time.  It is hard to have Thanksgiving dinner, for example, on separate tables, with two people at a table who happen to live together, and separated by 10 or 15 feet, to other people who happen to live together, and everyone wearing masks.  That isn’t Thanksgiving as we know it.  And messaging is—we’re finding it to be a real challenge.”

He said that often, a health issue doesn’t really hit home for a person until a crisis happens to them, a family member or a friend.

Bullough added that to drive that message home, they have shot videos with locals, such as Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter, about their Covid experiences.

On a more encouraging note, Bullough said  his anecdotal experience is that mask-wearing has been almost universally adopted in every store or gathering place he visits.

Health Board Chairman Chris Cherniak said he has had the same experience.    

“The supermarket I go to now, it’s 100 percent.  In fact, I’m shocked if I don’t see somebody wearing a mask.   I think the rest of us give them the look.  I think behavior has shifted in that sense.    And that’s impressive, given the fact that a lot of people in that supermarket are from out of town.  And so everyone is on board, it seems like from what I’ve observed, most people are on board.   And that goes to the gym.   I’m still going to the gym, and I know I put myself at risk there.  But I see a lot of people at the gym who are wearing masks even while they’re exercising.”

The Board also got an update from Environmental Health Director Nate Brooks.   He commended local restaurants for stepping up and thinking outside of the box during the winter season.

Specifically, he said, many eateries have set up tents next to their regular indoor operations.    The new spaces range from yurts, which can accommodate one family, to a larger tent that could hold 20 tables.

He said a number of the spaces are heated.  They are sanitized, and the restaurants provide a 15-minute downtime between customers.  

“Our part in the process is, we ensure the seating, the egress, waiting areas, that we’re not getting a whole lot of contact time there.   And then we jump into the sanitation portion.  So we’ve been able to not only do the permitting, but we go out on site and inspect these, make sure that they’re in compliance.”

Finally, Rich Bullough said that in four or five months, vaccines will be available to the mainstream population, but there will be some citizens who don’t want to take the doses.

He said he’s hoping that local community leaders and event organizers will put out their own message—appealing to locals who want to get back to their beloved Summit County traditions.

“If you want to have a normal County Fair, if you want to have a normal Oakley Rodeo, if you want to have Sundance next year, here’s what you need to do.  You need to get vaccinated.  And here are our targets for vaccination and herd immunity.  And I think if we can attach that message to something that we hold dear—Miner’s Day, whatever those events are, the Arts Festival, whatever those events are, if you want them to occur in a way that you’ve grown to love, you have a role in it.   And that role is to be vaccinated.”

Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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