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South Valley Journal

Riverton stays positive through pandemic

Jul 13, 2020 01:04PM ● By Kirk Bradford

By Kirk Bradford | [email protected]

It can be difficult to find a silver lining after months of devastating news regarding the novel coronavirus, termed COVID-19. 

The pandemic has affected virtually all aspects of life. The virus is directly wreaking havoc on the health of those who have high-risk factors; however, those whose health isn’t affected aren’t completely safe either. You can still feel the virus’s touch via a volatile job market, investment market or our fluctuating global economy. However, if we look ahead, there is potential good to come out of this unprecedented time.

Worldwide, the pandemic is decreasing our carbon footprint. The biggest upside is that there is tangible improvement in the environment according to a recent New York Times report. With much of the world on lockdown, the levels of nitrogen dioxide have decreased. The skies are blue in Delhi, India, for the first time in years. The air quality in China has improved dramatically. You may have even noticed Salt Lake City is missing the thick layer of smog we experience so often. 

Troy McDougal, Riverton City Council representative, District 2, spoke with the City Journals about the positive byproducts of the pandemic.

“I think the city has done a great job in being innovative in meeting the needs of our citizens,” he said. “Rather than just closing down services, we have tried to find ways to keep going so people could keep going or we could recover faster. Examples of this are doing split shifts with employees to make sure no department ever closed because everyone got sick. Or, when the dump shut down, we provided dumpsters so residents could still do their yard projects and get trash hauled away. It was the ability of many different people willing to think outside the box and try new methods that helped to decrease the effects on our citizens.”

Family matters have started to change. Many families had developed a system of seeing each other in passing. Children were running off to school; some parents were late at work to catch a few extra hours on their paycheck. Kids were going to practice, games and recitals. Family dinners together were a holiday occasion. However, the coronavirus has forced a lockdown that inspired families to connect. There is the heart-breaking issue of child abuse because some parents are struggling to cope. 

Many others are connecting with their children as they teach them from home. Private high schools in Utah charge an average of $10,082 for tuition, according to Private School Review. While that isn’t an option for many families, getting an education like that of a private school without the price tag is available to Utah students. Companies such as Orem’s Lumen Scholar Institute is allowing children to get the private education for free. The new concept being called the "flipped classroom" in which students self-navigate learning content may have very interesting results. Students are first consuming the content on their own and then asking questions afterward. It’s a step toward more independent learning in the classroom that enables students to learn at a pace that works best for them.

Improved relationships is another benefit of the coronavirus hiatus you may have noticed. Parents are becoming more involved with their children since they are home-schooling them. 

“The upside is a better understanding of your child as a student,” said Dr. Jacqueline Jones, author of “Medical Parenting: How to Navigate the Health, Wellness & Medical System with Your Child.” 

“Since the pandemic, I have noticed that I have been able to have better and deeper communication with family members and the public,” McDougal said. “Prior to the pandemic, everyone seemed to be running from one activity to another. So, you had to communicate quickly. With most activities shut down, it gave time to talk in greater detail. Either while taking a walk or on the phone, there was time to discuss, listen and better understand people’s needs and concerns.”

The importance budgeting and saving has become essential. A penny saved is a penny earned is the old axiom Benjamin Franklin said many years ago. Some people are in a state of panic since they aren’t prepared financially for a setback. Others are preparing better and learning from past mistakes. The lessons learned this year may be invaluable tools for the future. 

McDougal talked about Riverton City Council and residents’ improvement in some areas saying, “I have seen an increase in emails and phone calls as people have had more time to see what is going on in their community and think about the place they live and how it impacts their life in times of crisis. I have always felt that a fully informed citizenry is critical to having a successful community. When public officials are transparent and provide the correct data and situation, people will make the decisions that strengthen their community and bring about its success.”

Casey Saxton, Riverton’s director of communications, also explained ways Riverton has be innovated during the pandemic to positively move in the right direction. 

“We have worked to actively communicate with our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Saxton said. “We were one of the first cities in the state to get a COVID-19 advisory sent via email and text to our residents and set up a COVID-19 resources website at rivertonutah.gov/covid19. We have subsequently communicated about public health orders and the more recent change to the Yellow Phase.”

Another positive is Riverton celebrates the first anniversary of its police department on July 1. A statement online from Mayor Trent Staggs and Police Chief Don Hudson read: “It’s been a phenomenal first year for the department. Our officers have been visibly present in our community as they have worked to build relationships, protect public safety and enforce the law. In closing, we wanted to reiterate our commitment to offering the very best in police services to our community. We wanted to thank the citizens and businesses who have taken the time to reach out to the police department during these difficult times to offer their support. We are grateful to have such a supportive community and are grateful for the dedication of our officers.” 

Many people are acting with kindness. The altruism that continues to be pushed by social media is exciting and gives hope for the future. Hashtags provide a permanent record of all the good happening across Utah. Some of the common acts of care that are happening are supermarket runs for those who are unable to leave their home. People are cooking meals for those in need and disseminating gift cards for the recently unemployed. The Starbucks manager in Riverton reported that more now than ever, people are buying the car behind them in line coffee. Sometimes people are even buying everyone in line coffee.