Not that long ago, half the people in Utah balked at taking any precautions against COVID-19. They didn't like masks. They wanted their "freedoms." They talked up "herd immunity" as if they actually passed high school biology. Since they didn't—and knowing that there was nearly a good chance they learned everything they know about medical science from Drs. Welby, Pierce, Howser and Ross—I accepted their social media posts with a grain of sodium chloride. What I watched, and what all of you watched, wasn't an education about "herd immunity" but rather, a front row seat to the never-ending Utah movie called, Herd Mentality.
The fast-acting Biden administration is getting COVID-19 vaccine doses spread all across the United States, and the state of Utah (thank you, Gov. Cox!) is getting the sand out of the gears and wax out of the ears. Utahns are being vaccinated at lifesaving pace, and you no longer hear a peep about "herd immunity." The same people who are now pushing and shoving their way into vaccination lines were the ones who expressed their "freedoms" by calling the rest of us socialist sheep and mindless followers because we trusted Dr. Fauci more than Nick Riviera, M.D.
Over a million fellow Utahns have had at least one of the two recommended doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. This week, all adult Utahns can reserve slots for their vaccinations. Last year at this time, I mocked Gov. Herbert because Utah had a worse COVID case and death count than the country of Greece, despite the fact that Greece has 7 million more residents. Now Greece far surpasses Utah in COVID-19 deaths and is slacking in vaccinations. This year, Utah will vaccinate around 3 million residents faster than Greece can even turn on its lamb spits.
As above, that credit is primarily due to the ceaseless positive messages from Gov. Cox and his administration. They were ready and organized, and they spelled out relatable messages regarding the benefits of vaccination, which can be distilled down to a very specific meme: Living is good, and living is the right thing to do. It's a funny thing about messaging. Sometimes you can have the perfect message, but it falls on deaf ears. For a message to be effective, people have to be willing to hear and accept the message. As often as not, what causes a person to open their ears is that they become affected by an external event that causes them to become just a tad more willing to understand something they formerly decried.
The classic example is how Utahns seemed to suddenly become engaged in their support or acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. It wasn't that long ago that Utah's herd mentality prevented the majority of Utahns from publicly accepting some family members or joining in events like Pride Week. Then it was like a light switch went off. We see Pride flags all over town, families hugging and lots of colorful hair styles. It's how herd mentality works. It's not OK until it is. And what triggered the rapid rise of acceptance of Utah's LGBTQ+ citizens wasn't a speech from the governor or any politician.
It was the realization among Utah families—especially hard-line Latter-day Saints—that having a gay son or daughter over for the holidays was far better than losing that loved one forever. The message was always there. It took losing a loved one or hearing of such to finally accept the message. It's true that truth is our savior.
Over 2,000 Utah families have lost a family member to COVID. Ten times that number have had close calls. That's 2,000 or 20,000 too many, but finally enough Utahns have been so closely stricken by COVID that they've opened their eyes to this basic fact: Utah's economy doesn't mean shit if you are too dead to enjoy it.
Utah's herd mentality is finally moving in the right direction. But it's not over. Utah will soon try a risky scenario in removing some of its COVID restrictions (note to Gov. Cox—see Greece example). All that remains is for the people who sacrificed this past year to figure out a way to get to Lake Powell without driving through Kanab and Kane County. Then we'd be the perfect herd.
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Correction: The reference to The Simpsons' character, Nick Riviera, M.D., was misspelled in the print edition and is shown correctly above.