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The Oscar Goes to


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In the entire time he's been Utah's governor, I've spent the grand sum of about three hours and 10 seconds with Gary Herbert. The first three hours were at a Sundance movie premiere at the Rose Wagner Center. I think the movie was Whiplash in 2014 but maybe not. The leading role was played by J.K. Simmons who went on to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, which totally baffled me since throughout the film I had a hard time separating his role from his Farmers Insurance commercials persona. He's the guy who says, "We've seen almost everything, so we know how to cover almost anything." Helluva line. Makes you want to believe him.

I'm told Herbert is a legit cinema fan, so he was there for the oeurve. I'm a "shallow end of the pool" fellow, so I was there to catch a fleeting glimpse of a movie star, any movie star, and it just happened to be Simmons. The reality is that outside of the 14 or so movies I have in permaloop (starting with The Lobster), I don't watch many movies. Well, I didn't up until COVID-19, that is. Now I'm up to speed on the Marvel series, even. Man! Who knew about that Chris Evans fellow?

The remaining 10 seconds I've spent with the governor were the clock ticks between him going up a stairway and me going down a shared stairwell. Midway, we did the cordial nod with me quickly looking right past him, down the stairwell to where the only oeurves I understand, the hors d'oeuvres, were located. From then until now, he didn't hurt me (much), and I didn't hurt him at all that I know of.

So, today I wonder: Why does Gary Herbert want to kill me?

What did I ever do to him, anyway? Besides, that is, that I still curse the day that then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. left Utah to become the U.S. ambassador to China, leaving us with Gary Herbert—his lieutenant governor, added to the Huntsman ballot to appease the right-wing element of Utah's Republican party—as our new governor.

On Monday night, June 22, Utah's state epidemiologist, Dr. Angela Dunn, was the signatory on an internal government memo regarding Utah's fight against the spread of coronavirus. The memo stated that Utah is reaching a point "where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown."

Dunn added that if Utah was not able to contain the virus case growth soon, targeting an average of 200 cases by July 1 (mathematically impossible, by the way, given today's newly released total of 394 new cases) that the state could again face shutting down. "This might be our last chance for course correction," she ominously predicted.

Let's all remind ourselves at this point that Dunn is just one voice among the tens of thousands of newly minted epidemiologists in Utah, a number that appears to include not only Gov. Herbert and his own lieutenant governor, and current gubernatorial candidate, Spencer Cox, aka Lovable, Cute and Caring Spencer Cox. However, Dunn is the only one among those thousands who didn't get her degree on Twitter. As well, her official state position behooves those in state government to trust her knowledge and predictions.

But this is Utah, so we can all not be surprised in the least as to the official response from Gov. Gary Herbert: "Eat dirt."

Those are actually my own quotation marks around the words I imagine that Herbert was trying to say when I pictured him atop the Capitol building steps, two American flags waving beside him, the ugly Utah State flag limping to his rear. Then he boldly raised his sea-parting bullhorn and Tweeted to his 63,100 Twitter followers, "I appreciate [Dunn's] analysis and share many of her concerns. We will work to stem this tide, but I have no plans to shut down Utah's economy."

A second Herbert Tweet added the ever more calming bromide, "I urge Utahns to protect themselves and their loved ones from the spread of the virus by following our common-sense guidelines for social distancing, good hand hygiene and especially the use of face coverings."

There are several key words here, the first two of which are "no plan." That's been plainly evident from the start of the pandemic—Utah has no plan, never had a plan and is not developing a plan. All Utah has done thus far is get lucky. If just one person had stood five seconds longer back in February or early March at a Salt Lake City International Airport urinal, he might have infected a Utahn before taking his diseased lungs to Colorado or New Jersey or wherever else the coronavirus first exploded. The virus is everywhere, it's global. That it didn't hit Utah early was due to luck, not policy. But, now it's here, and our leaders have no plan.

Wash our hands, Herbert says? We have! Wear facial coverings, he says? Yeah—because the word "mask" is a political volleyball. You may not like where the numbers are going, Herbert and Cox, but you had your chances.

You lost our confidence when you added the word "cheer" to the word "leader." Do-nothing Herbert and Cox are responsible for Utah's spread and rising deaths of COVID-19. If Utah shuts down again, it will not be due to Dunn; it will be because these guys failed the first time around, appeasing Trump dictums—not reality. These guys put party over country and lives. It's a great act. If this were a movie, Herbert and Cox would be Oscar material. CW

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