Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, October 9, 2020

And should we die...

Utah is a microcosm of the world's reaction to a pandemic. A recent news article in a local news outlet, Deseret News, summarizes the problems facing not only the State of Utah but countries throughout the world. The article is entitled, "‘Moment of reckoning’ for Utah? Something has to change, doctors say."

Here is one quote from the article:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome,” Pavia told the Deseret News Thursday, hours before state officials announced a new daily record of 1,501 COVID-19 cases amid a nearly weeklong streak of over 1,000 cases a day.

“It’s clear we are at a point we need to pull out some new tools and do something differently.”

The excerpt is quoting Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious disease at the University of Utah. One of the responses was from the governor Gary Herbert who is quoted as saying:

“Well, it’s all about behavior, and so the question really is what’s going to modify my behavior, your behavior,” the governor replied. “Is it somebody’s got to pass a government rule, a law, an ordinance to make you do that? Maybe for some that’s the only way you’ll do that, but for some they’ll rebel even harder against it.”

Herbert said Utahns must “do the right things for the right reasons,” and those decisions should be made at local levels.

“But at the end of the day, heavens, I hope we don’t have to have government tell us what to do to do the right thing,” he said. “That’s probably an indictment upon us as people. 

I live in Utah. I am surrounded by people who daily, consciously disobey laws in obvious ways. For example, on any given day driving to a store or doctor's visit, I can count up to five cars and trucks that run red lights. Not just entering on yellow, but clearly red. Interestingly, according to crash data from the State of Utah, although the number of crashes each year increases, the number of fatalities has been decreasing. Why is that? If you analyze the reasons, you will see that government intervention has forced car manufacturers to improve the safety of their cars. One of the best ways to prevent serious injuries and death from car accidents is to wear a seat belt. However, it is clear that unrestrained crash occupants were 24 times more likely to die than restrained injured occupants. See "Utah Department of Public Safety, Crash Data and Statistics." Can you possibly support an argument that wearing a seat belt infringes on your constitution rights? The question of whether or not we have a constitutional right to die has been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court but whether or not we do have a right to die does not extend to having a right to kill others. 

Back to the pandemic. Why is there such a violent objection to simple safety measures? Is protecting your life and the lives of those around you a political issue of constitutional importance? The principle here is one expressed by many people over the years but probably originated from John B. Finch who was the Chairman of the Prohibition National Committee for several years in the 1880s and died in 1887. See Quote Investigator, "Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins." Quoting from the article:

This arm is my arm (and my wife’s), it is not yours. Up here I have a right to strike out with it as I please. I go over there with these gentlemen and swing my arm and exercise the natural right which you have granted; I hit one man on the nose, another under the ear, and as I go down the stairs on my head, I cry out:

“Is not this a free country?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have not I a right to swing my arm?”

“Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes.

We are in exactly that position. Your right to refrain from wearing a mask ends where my right to avoid infection begins. In an airborne virus initiated pandemic, you right to refrain from wearing a mask in public infringes on the rights of those you potentially infect and thereby kill. We have a perfect example of this issue presently developing in the White House in Washington, D.C. 

 A virus is not a living organism. It does not respect your rights or my rights or anyone's rights no matter what those rights may be. I continually ask the question here in Utah. How high does the infection rate have to go before the pandemic becomes a governmental issue? If we were talking about garbage collection, how much garbage would you allow to pile up in front of your house before you would start organizing some way to pick up the garbage?

A few last words about statistics. The graph at the beginning of this post shows the Daily New Cases of COVID-19 in Utah. Look at the graph. There are regular variations in the numbers. The pattern reflects the number of tests given. What is the real measure of the virus's infection? The real number is the percentage of people who are tested that test positive. In Utah right now, that number is over 9% and there current 7-day running average is over 13%. Given the population of the state, that means that there are likely almost 360,000 people here in Utah that are infected. Are you one of them? Could you get a virus test to find out?


  1. We live in upstate New York, where the infection rate is low. Our Governor is working hard to keep us updated and as safe as possible. We watch other states get added to and subtracted from our "quarantine" list, and we pay attention to that and our briefings from the Governor. So, we wear masks and sanitize and do our best to keep ourselves and others safe, THIS is our right.

  2. These are exactly my thoughts as well; you express them with precision, and logic. I live in Florida, where we are in the exact opposite situation from your commentator from New York. "Woe is us."