Don’t break the ice, COVID recovery should be slow and careful says Leavitt

Apr 24, 2020, 7:59 AM
Former HHS Sec. Mike Leavitt says that the nation's recovery from COVID-19 will be like crossing a ...
Former HHS Sec. Mike Leavitt says that the nation's recovery from COVID-19 will be like crossing a frozen lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — We are going to get to the other side of this pandemic, but we have to learn to adapt and learn as we slowly feel our way through the COVID recovery, says a former state leader.

Mike Leavitt, former Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary and ex-Utah governor,  joined Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to discuss the battle to defeat COVID-19.

Leavitt used this analogy to describe the battle’s status now:

Imagine you are on the nearshore of a frozen lake in early December. You need to reach the far side of the lake.

First, you step onto the ice, but you don’t run out because if you fall through the ice, your fate is sealed.

You take another step and listen for cracking sounds under your feet. And you take another step and listen for cracking.

“In large measure, that’s where we are right now,” Leavitt said. “We don’t know the answers to a lot of these questions. We do know that we have to get to the other side of this.

“The problem is if we move out too rapidly, and we have too much optimism about the thickness of the ice, metaphorically, we fall into the water, and our fate becomes worse as opposed to better.

“We are all feeling our way here, and we’re going to learn as we go,” Leavitt said.

Time to adapt

“I wonder whether it would be wise to dedicate more money and resources to health departments to help monitor that these are the kinds of things taking place?” Dave asked.

“There’s no question we are entering a period where public health is going to be vital, and people with public-health skills are going to be stretched. And we’re all going to become experts because our lives are going to change.

“I wish that weren’t true because I think we all enjoyed life the way it has been. But we’ll adapt, and we’ll find ways to operate and function and learn new skills. This is a new risk that we’re learning to navigate.

In comparison, Leavitt said 15 or 20 years ago no one worried about online privacy or cyber-security. Now every business has to learn and adapt to this threat environment.

“I’m not minimizing at all the complications of this,” Leavitt said, “but I do think we can’t feel like we’re the first ones to ever go through this kind of change. Societies have always gone through it. We’ll succeed here. We’ll get to the other side. We just have to feel our way.”

Trump’s anti-malarial drug

A scientist leading a federal agency seeking to develop a vaccine for coronavirus said he was removed from his post after he resisted widespread use of a dubious drug pushed by President Donald Trump as a treatment for the virus.

“Rushing blindly towards unproven drugs can be disastrous and result in countless more deaths. Science, in service to the health and safety of the American people, must always trump politics,” said Dr. Rick Bright, according to CNBC.

“It’s been widely reported that the state of Utah has been stockpiling that anti-malaria drug [hydroxychloroquine], and it’s proving to be controversial. What’s your take on that?” Debbie asked.

“I don’t know the answer to this. I do know that almost every scientific study that has been done does not come to the conclusion that we ought be stockpiling it for [COVID-19].

“Is it going to hurt that we have it? I suppose not. It may not be the best use of our money in my view.  We ought not place a lot of hope on that particular remedy.

“Antivirals and medications that interrupt the symptoms [are] vital. We’re attached to this idea because it exists today. I know that literally billions of dollars and a lot of effort are going into the whole concept of developing these medications. But it is probably going to require some patience on our part. We all want a pill to take and a button to push and have this stuff go away. But that’s probably not what we’re facing,” Leavitt said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

[4/14 5:43 AM] Colby Walker

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States



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Don’t break the ice, COVID recovery should be slow and careful says Leavitt