If you felt pangs of fear and doubt in Tooele County last week, you had good reason to and weren’t alone. There’s nothing like a pandemic and an earthquake to flip the comfortable rhythms of daily life upside down.
For starters, in last week’s editions we reported that the Coronavirus had made its way from Wuhan, China, to Tooele County. Area health officials said that a local man under 60 years old had tested positive for the virus. Also, persons who had come into contact with him were being identified and monitored for symptoms.
The number of local citizen infections has now increased to two (see related front-page story). Like the first, this one is also the result of travel-related contact.
We also reported last week that the Tooele County Commission had issued a declaration of local emergency in response to the pandemic. The move activates the county’s Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Operations Plan. There were also stories on the local hospital’s drive-up testing initiative, and the pandemic’s impact to local restaurants, businesses and organizations, the soft closure of all local schools and more.
To top off those jarring events, last Wednesday morning brought an unwelcome surprise. At 7:09 a.m., an earthquake that measured 5.7 on the Richter scale rattled the area for several seconds, followed by aftershocks. There were local reports of temporary power outages and structural damage after the temblor. Thankfully, there were no reports of injuries.
Yet, the pandemic and earthquake combined to make for one anxious week. With COVID-19 measuring high on its own damage scale, health experts warn that the virus could continue to pose a major health threat for several months or more. At press time today the scale of that damage stood at two cases in the county, 257 in Utah with one death, 33,404 in the U.S. with 400 deaths, and 332,930 globally with 14,509 deaths.
Experts have also warned Utahns for years that a major earthquake could strike the state at any time and cause severe damage. Wednesday’s temblor was unwelcomed, but maybe a timely nudge to remind us not to ignore such warnings and be prepared.
One of the best ways to reduce anxiety and fear is to commit to action. Social distancing, adhering to good hygiene and complying with safety provisos to interrupt transmitting the virus is direct action. So is preparing for an earthquake. According to Tooele County Emergency Management Director Bucky Whitehouse, the app “TooeleReady” contains a lot of what local citizens need to know. It provides a comprehensive list of what to do to be prepared for an emergency.
Besides urging citizens to become familiar with the app, he also advised them to “Prepare, do not panic. … The better prepared we can be as a county and citizens of a county, we can better handle emergencies that come our way.”
Such words also apply to the pandemic. The effort is to prevent the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed, and to help prevent vulnerable citizens from becoming infected and needlessly dying.
For more comprehensive information about COVID-19, see the county health department’s website at tooelehealth.org or the CDC’s website at cdc.org.