Logan Municipal Council’s “Less than 10: Flatten the Curve” education initiative was approved on Aug. 18 to replace the citywide mask mandate that expired on Aug. 31 and is now entering its second week by unveiling the logo that will accompany the educational outreach.
The goal of the initiative is to not only bring the entire valley down to a two-week rolling average of no more than 10 cases a day, but also a chance to raise awareness on how to reduce the spread of the virus.
“I want residents to know that we trust them,” said Council Member Jess Bradfield, who’s heading the effort. “It’s really, most importantly for me … I want to bring back that sense of community, that sense of belonging that we shared at the beginning of this.”
It’s also an opportunity to congratulate residents for a job well done, he said.
“We are a city that has been able to be among the best in state, and Utah’s been among the best in the nation at dealing with coronavirus,” he said. “And so I think that is a huge accomplishment, and part of this campaign is rewarding that effort.”
Bradfield is working with Cache County Council and other local leaders to organize a reward for the community if the goal of less than 10 new cases per day can be maintained for two weeks: a weekend drive-in movie at the fairgrounds for up to 500 cars, complete with local food trucks.
Though there was concern over the necessity for such an initiative due to the relatively low occurrence of COVID-19 in the valley, Chair Amy Anderson said the goal is to continue the streak, especially following the outbreak at the Cache County Jail.
“I think we’re still always going to have to remain somewhat vigilant,” she said. “I think we’ll always see restaurants with a different level of hygiene and sanitation, we’re going to see school settings and we’re going to see events where people are more cognizant of spacing. … I just hope that people don’t feel fatigued with doing what helps protect each other.”
This sentiment was shared online when the city asked for residents’ input on the logo on Facebook over the weekend, with some asking how this campaign will be different from the last 182 days the governor and other officials have talked about “flattening the curve.”
Anderson said this confusion is part of the reason she appreciated the numerical value of 10 cases per day as protecting hospitals from being overwhelmed as well as businesses being able to safely resume.
Several of those who commented agreed. However, others voiced concern on the efficacy of the campaign after so many months and so many people have already made up their minds.
“People know this information already,” wrote Chris Kerkmann Nielson. “They are either on board or not. A nice logo won’t change that. It is a complete waste of CARES money that would be better spent helping business owners and stabilizing our local economy.”
The logo is just one aspect of the initiative, Bradfield said. “It’s also a way to let people know that they can support local businesses, that they can go out and maintain safety as they keep our businesses alive within the city.”
Joy Brisighella called the plan “meaningless and misleading,” as it’s aimed at flattening the curve not only in different counties, but across state lines as “Cache Valley” refers to more than just Cache County.
Cache County was at or below the 10-a-day goal through August until the jail and USU spikes. Currently, the rolling-average for the county is at about 20.4 cases with a 15% positivity rate for testing.
The number of cases for Franklin County in Idaho — also part of Cache Valley — increased by seven cases over the weekend, from 17 to 24.
On top of the logistical difficulties facing the education initiative, there has been continued backlash from those who believe the relatively low number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths caused by COVID-19 are proof the illness has been blown out of proportion.
But Anderson said this attitude just highlights the need for more educational outreach as leaders haven’t always done the best job of interpreting the new data and science presented as research becomes available.
“Ultimately, I do think part of our responsibility as a city is to help keep our community safe,” she said. “That, to me, also includes safety from a disease and a pandemic perspective. … We can’t dictate what people do and we can’t run through the streets sanitizing things. We can educate people as to why it’s important to follow the four tenets of distancing, and hand washing, and wearing a mask, and staying home when you’re sick.”
Timing is also crucial as we move into cold and flu season, according to Caleb Harrison, an epidemiologist with the Bear River Health Department — especially because though COVID-19 has similar symptoms to influenza, it’s more contagious and deadly.
Annual flu deaths per year in the United States are estimated to be between 12,000-61,000 each year since 2010, though it’s hard to quantify as there’s no national tracking database for seasonal influenza. To date, there have been 179,640 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
“With schools being back in session for many people and many people being back to work, now more than ever those prevention measures are important because people tend to have more contact with one another,” Harrison said.
Another Facebook user questioned whether the money going to the campaign would be better spent providing free masks to the public, which Bradfield said is included in the initiative.
“We have a stockpile of thousands of masks ready to go for our small businesses,” he said, and applications for business with less than 500 employees located in Logan’s city limits are available.