The tears come when Preslie Paur thinks about the government’s refusal to require wearing face masks in public settings in Utah, where she lives.
The South Salt Lake City woman can’t work at her special education job because of an autoimmune disease.
Her husband, also a special ed teacher, quit because his school district wouldn’t let him work remotely to protect her and their 5-year-old son, who has asthma.
“I feel forgotten,” Paur said. “We’re living in a world we no longer fit in. We did everything right. We went to college. We got jobs. We tried to give back to our community,. And now our community is not giving back to us. And I’m very scared.”
The virus, surging around the country, has been hitting Idaho and Utah especially hard of late.
In Twin Falls, Idaho, new data suggest that one in 24 residents has contracted the coronavirus, according to Dr. Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center, where, amid a crush of new cases, nurses have been brought in from Boise, elective surgery has been scaled back and admissions of pediatric patients halted.
“It’s gotten kind of out of hand,” Kern said. “We’ve had something like a third of our total COVID cases in our community in the last two to three weeks. There are a lot of parts of the state suffering under the same burden.”
He said Twin Falls had been lulled into complacency after months of relatively low numbers.
“It’s like the community said, ‘Oh, good. It’s over. We can party again,’ and we saw the virus increase,” Kern said. “We went to the coffee shop to get pastries for our group, and it was closed because of COVID. And we knew that, the week before, they had been in there unmasked.”
Mark Chidichimo, a retired FBI agent, said his sister, brother-in-law, brother, nephew and 92-year-old father in Idaho have been diagnosed with coronavirus over the past three weeks. Chidichimo, who lives in New Jersey, has nothing but praise for St. Luke’s in Twin Falls, but said his brother was told that, if he needed hospitalization, he’d be sent to Seattle, more than 600 miles away.
“Hey, Idaho, tThis is coming from someone who has been there, done that: You really want to avoid this if you can,” Chidichimo said. “It’s going to be really bad, and I pray to God that none of my family members have to be hospitalized. Because, if they do, I don’t know if they’ll survive.”
After months of improvement, parts of Europe are going back into lockdown or ramping up restrictions again amid another rise in infections. Italy imposed at least a month of new restrictions across the country last weekend, mandating that people outdoors wear masks, shutting down gyms, pools and movie theaters and putting an early curfew on cafes and restaurants.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who tested positive, pleaded with people to wear masks as the incidence of the virus rises and hospital ICUs once again are filling up.
“Please continue to help, and don’t listen to those who play down” coronavirus, Spahn said. “It is serious.”
In New Mexico, which reported record numbers of additional COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent days, more than 350 doctors, nurses and other health professionals signed a letter imploring people to stay home as much as possible, wear masks and limit the size of gatherings to help prevent another wave of “lonely deaths.”
“Please help health care professionals help you,” said the letter, posted on the New Mexico Department of Health’s website. “Help us protect you. Help us ensure that we have the resources to treat the sick and care for the dying.”
Paur, whose brother and his girlfriend both recently tested positive for the virus, is worried about them — and herself.
“People need to know that our lives are on the line,” the Utah woman said. “We’re running out of money really fast.”
Contributing: Jim Mustian