When the Logan Municipal Council first approved the “Less Than 10: Flatten the Curve’’ education initiative to replace Mayor Holly Daines’ state of emergency and mask mandate on Aug. 31, there was a seven-day rolling average of about 10 cases a day.
Within the month, the average had jumped to 20.
Now, there have been 581 cases in 14 days, and Cache County is currently under a state health department-issued mask mandate due to the High risk of COVID-19 transmission in the area.
At the council’s meeting on Tuesday, members discussed what measures should be considered if the current surge continues, such as extending the education campaign or potentially approving a citywide mask ordinance on Nov. 3.
The “Less Than 10” campaign was planned to expire on Oct. 15, but the CARES Act funding appropriated for the initiative — a budget of $9,600 — will fund radio ads through Oct. 31.
“Is the education we’re doing effective?” Council Member Jeannie Simmonds asked. “I don’t want us to spend money on something that’s not effective.”
While Chair Amy Anderson and others had several people reach out to say they’d heard the ads, that doesn’t mean the campaign was effective.
“Also, the state and the county are also running some ads, and have been,” added Rich Anderson, Logan’s Finance Director. “So, to a certain extent it has felt like overkill. It is a really good message, but almost every other ad is (a coronavirus ad), so we may want to be a little careful.”
Several people said they have not only been burned out on the ads, like Eden Hooten, of Smithfield, who added their message has made her mad.
“I hate them!” she wrote to The Herald Journal. “They make me want to not wear a mask out of spite! They basically say you are a horrible person if you don’t wear one … The ad tells you that you don’t matter and that everyone else is more important then you.”
At the meeting, Simmonds said it’s the opposite.
“I believe that we need perhaps to be constantly reminded that it’s not just for us that we wear a mask,” she said. “It’s for the people around us, and the people that are way more vulnerable than we think we are. That’s not to say that I’m not vulnerable, and it’s not to say that we’re not vulnerable, but I want us to be a community that cares about one another.”
Pam Hyde-Laird, of Benson, said she doesn’t listen to the radio often, but she’ll change the station when she hears them come on.
Ryan Dalziel said she’d heard of the campaign even before hearing the ads on Kool 103.9, but it hasn’t changed her behavior at all because she and her family have worn masks since the pandemic began.
“It just makes me sad that we’re even having to make such an effort to get people to wear masks,” Dalziel said. “I don’t think it is doing much good. If the police aren’t going to be fining people who aren’t wearing masks in public, then telling people the same thing they’ve been told by numerous sources since February isn’t going to change anything.”
In the 30 days of the Logan mask mandate, the police department issued zero citations, even to repeat violators.
Council Member Tom Jensen said he doesn’t want to make “a police-force mandate that will arrest people for coming together for Thanksgiving,” while he acknowledged that small gatherings of more than 10 people, such as parties and barbecues, have been key to the virus spreading.
“I’m assuming that a lot of this is people who are thinking they’re immune, maybe they’re foolish,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. You know, we’ve had shutdowns in Michigan, and we’ve seen riots. We’ve seen shutdowns in New York and other places, and it’s been hurtful. So I don’t know what more we can do.”
Council Member Mark Anderson argued no one is suggesting a police state, however, he would support continuing the education campaign and potentially a more severe mandate.
“As you know, COVID has hit my family hard, and we’re very concerned about it and how it’s transmitted through families,” said Anderson, who lost his father to COVID-19 last week. “I don’t think people understand the consequences and accountability of one person in the family picking it up, and how it affects everyone who’s come in contact with them. So for something that we can do to continue to remind people, depending on whether we’re high, low or medium (transmission risk), I think we need to continue that until we have some sort of solution, vaccine, something.”
New Council Member Ernesto Lopez questioned whether some form of signage would be preferable to the radio ads, such as on the Utah Department of Transportation sign above the highway in Wellsville.
Simmonds added, “there’s 50- to 60,000 cars that go through the intersection 400 North and Main Street every day. Maybe we can put up a great big thermometer like you do in fundraising that has our case counts in it” to show people the severity of the illness.
Jensen, who came up with the slogan “come on, put it on” as a way to encourage mask-wearing, questioned whether whatever the council could come up with will be enough to shock people who are convinced that COVID-19 is not serious, or that there’s nothing to be done to prevent its spread.
“It’s not the flu,” Anderson said. “It’s nothing like the flu. That’s from personal experience. … It’s hit our family very, very harsh. It affected every single person of our family, despite all of our negative tests. You know, it really impacts the people around the person that tests positive as much, if not more than, that person.”
The Utah Department of Health reviews county transmission risk factors every Thursday, but counties that are “high” risk will not have the risk lowered for at least two weeks. The earliest Cache County’s risk could be lowered to “moderate” is Oct. 29, though most officials agree it will likely be months before that change.
If case rates have not declined, the council will determine if further action, such as a mask mandate, will be necessary at its next meeting, on Nov. 3.