SALT LAKE CITY — At the Utah Valley Hospital, the newborn intensive care unit is directly across from the adult ICU. For 20 years, one care worker worked at the newborn unit, developing friendships with those on the other side of the hall. Recently, she ended up dying in those friends' care as they tried to save her from the effects of COVID-19.
Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, would like you to keep that story at the font of your mind — and those of the other 700-plus Utahns who have died from the novel coronavirus.
"They all have a story, and they're all real," Harrison said.
On Tuesday, Harrison joined Gail Miller of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith, and Deseret Management Corporation CEO Keith McMullin for a news conference announcing a new campaign pleading with the community to be "All In" in fighting the spread of the coronavirus. The campaign will air across all media platforms.
You've heard the message before — wear a mask, social distance, avoid social gatherings — and they're hoping by coming together, the message will permeate a little deeper. While the campaign has brought together four of Utah's most respected business voices, they are also people who have been personally impacted by the virus.
Smith had the disease and said it was "brutal" and that it "floored" him. His respect for the virus grew from that experience. Harrison said that he didn't see his oldest son for 10 months, missing his medical school graduation, vacations and weekly dinners.
McMullin, 79, who leads the company that oversees KSL.com, KSL TV and Deseret News, said because he and his wife are at an age that is considered high-risk, they have chosen not to see their grandchildren since late February. And Miller, like many Utahns (or at least so she hopes), has made the decision to hold Thanksgiving dinner away from her ever-growing family.
"We're not here to scare you. We're here to enlist your help in being part of this solution," Harrison said.
Utah has averaged over 3,000 positive cases a day over the last week, and referral ICUs are 91.7% full. No wonder Harrison said that the state was in "dire straits."
"This is the opportunity for each and every one of the people who live in our communities to be a health care hero, as well," he said. "Their actions around masking, social distancing, restricting social gatherings have the opportunity to turn the tide of this pandemic."
As for the health care workers, yes, they are tired and they are fatigued; but more than anything, Harrison said, they are frustrated. They're frustrated that there are still debates over whether to wear a mask or social distance.
"If there are elected officials who have any doubt about what's going on, please contact us and we will arrange for them to visit with our caregivers and visit the ICUs and see exactly what is going on in them," Harrison said.
McMullin likened this time to Utah's early beginnings when the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley.
"Each and every pioneer that walked that long trek from the east to the west had to decide for himself or herself, 'Am I going to move forward with courage with faith and devotion?' And then they had to say, collectively, 'We are going to help one another. We're going to move forward in the spirit of love and respect. When someone stumbles, we're going to help him or her back up on their feet, and we're going to move forward and accomplish our aims,'" McMullin said, admonishing the people of Utah to come together to fight the virus.
"We're at a pioneering moment. I am greatly concerned by the trends of this COVID-19 virus in our midst in Utah and across the nation. But I have great faith in this country, and I have absolute faith in this state and its people," McMullin said.
Miller, whose family recently sold the Utah Jazz to Smith, acknowledged that it is understandable to feel lonely, stressed and fatigued about the virus. But she said, "It's more important than ever for us to be diligent and mindful of all the things that we can do to stop the spread."
She noted Utah's "industrious spirit" and history of "pulling together" when it matters. And as the four reiterated time and time again, now is when it really matters.
"There's a rule that when you're sick of saying something, or sick of hearing it, it's probably time to start listening to it," Smith said. "Everyone knows what to do; we just have to do it, and that's all there is to it."
Editor's Note: Deseret Digital Media, Inc., the operator of KSL.com, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.