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BYU study: No relation between political beliefs, trust in COVID-19 vaccine

A recent Brigham Young University study set out to establish how people feel about a potential COVID-19 vaccine as well as their concerns and what barriers might keep them from receiving a potential vaccine.

The study discovered political views did not show any association to a person’s willingness to be vaccinated.

While politics did not play a role, the two biggest tell-tale signs that predicted how people felt about a potential COVID-19 vaccine were their general feelings toward vaccines and their views of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of importance

“Since we think that a vaccine for COVID-19 is probably the best way to get us kind of permanently out of the situation we are in, we wanted to, before a vaccine becomes available, see what types of messaging would be the most useful in helping people to decide on becoming vaccinated and also some barriers that would prevent people from being vaccinated,” said Brian Poole, senior study author and BYU professor of microbiology and molecular biology.

The included a survey of people from across America. The people selected to participate in the study were selected to reflect national census data.

Participants were asked about their attitudes toward a possible COVID-19 vaccine in several ways. A computer model was built to illustrate what factors were most predictive of their willingness to be vaccinated or not.

As for political beliefs, researches hypothesized political affiliations would be predictive of willingness to be vaccinated. Participants self-reported which political party they were a part of, and the study also allowed participants to rank themselves on a scale based on how liberal or conservative their views are.

However, neither had any relation to people’s opinions toward a potential vaccine.

“That was really interesting because it has become a very politicized topic,” Poole said. “We found that there was really no association, at all, with political beliefs, which is nice. Since it’s hard to change political beliefs and a lot of people’s attitudes are shaped by those, that would be a nice place to keep this. Where people from all sides of the spectrum are willing to be vaccinated, and they are not feeling like they can’t be because their politics disagree with it.”

As for one of the bigger tell-tale signs with regards to predicting attitudes toward a vaccine, how people viewed the pandemic in terms of importance had a big impact.

At about 35%, about 1-in-3 people thought that the pandemic was the most important, with another 30% saying it is a problem that is more important than others.

Thirty-five percent of people, however, viewed the pandemic as somewhat of a problem or not very much of a problem.

The other tell-tale sign was beliefs in vaccines. A press release from BYU said about 10% of Americans are anti-vaccine while Poole’s previous work showed about 13% of people on BYU’s campus were hesitant toward vaccines. He added that vaccine hesitancy is on the rise.

“The major concern most people had with the vaccine was safety, that it would cause side effects or that it wasn’t being tested enough or that it was being pushed through too quickly,” Poole said. “Almost everybody had those concerns, at least to some extent. One thing, I would say, is look at how the testing is going now.”

Poole pointed those who are worried about safety to the current testing going on where eight companies are trying to make a vaccine.

He also cited that two of the trials were stopped to investigate possible side effects of the vaccine. He said those side effects were found in one or two participants out of 10,000 or more people.

“Side effects of vaccines are very well studied, this is science at work,” Poole said. “If a vaccine has negative effects, then it is rejected and it’s not going to be pushed on the American people because we have good protocols in place. When we make it through the process and come out the other side, these vaccines have proven through sufficient testing to be safe and effective then I think we can believe that. Safety should not be a major concern for people because they are being well tested and the protocols are being followed.”

With regards to anti-vaccine people, Poole urged them to focus on the testing and trials while also thinking about more than just oneself.

“You’re not just doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for the people who are maybe more at risk in your life and the fact that it’ll help the economy to rebound,” Poole said. “It’ll help everything to get back to the way it was.”

San Francisco street artist offers sweet inspiration for UTA mask campaign

There is nothing sweet about the COVID-19 pandemic, but Utah Transit Authority is hoping it can at least make wearing face masks a bit more bearable.

UTA has created the UVX Honeybear Hunt as a way to get its riding public to mask up and to help support the Maskerade Initiative sponsored by the city of Provo.

Most people will recognize the cute honey bear bottle with the yellow lids you can purchase at grocery stores. By adding a face mask and some other amenities, such as a pair of angel wings or a fireman’s hat, you have what is becoming popular street art.

The Honeybears, created by a San Francisco street artist known as “fnnch,” have become a cultural sensation in the Bay Area. When the Regional General Manager of UTA’s Timpanogos Service Unit learned of fnnch’s Honeybears, she began luring these cuddly cubs to Utah County.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit the United States. Streets emptied, shops boarded up, and public transit ridership dropped significantly. In San Francisco, fnnch responded to the pandemic through his medium of choice: art.

“I noticed a lot of boarded-up storefronts in San Francisco,” fnnch said. “It had been a while since I did street art in San Francisco, so I thought, let’s take something that would otherwise be depressive and turn it into a canvas for art.”

The Honeybears have turned into a cultural sensation in San Francisco, with fnnch selling hundreds of pieces and donating several hundred thousand dollars to charities using portions of the proceeds.

There are hunts happening all across the country — and now in Utah as well.

Mary De La Mare-Schaefer, regional general manager of UTA’s Timpanogos Service Unit, heard about fnnch’s Honeybears through her daughter who lived in San Francisco.

“I heard about them, and I knew I had to have them for UTA,” said De La Mare-Schaefer, who received permission to use the masked Honeybears to encourage riders to wear face coverings on UVX and all of UTA’s mass transit vehicles.

Masks are required on station platforms and while riding buses and trains. UTA created the UVX Honeybear Hunt in support of Provo’s “#JoinTheMaskerade” initiative.

“UVX’s Honeybear Hunt is the perfect addition to our mask-wearing efforts and has the same light-hearted tone clearly resonating within our community,” said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi.

Anyone riding UVX can join the contest by following these rules:

  1. Wear a mask and take a selfie with a Honeybear found along the UVX route.
  2. Post the photo to social media, making sure to tag @RideUTA and use the hashtags “#JoinTheMaskerade” and “#HoneybearHunt.”
  3. Ensure accounts and posts are public, so they can be seen.
  4. Each story post is counted as one entry and each feed post is also counted as an entry. There can be no more than five entries.
  5. Contestants will be entered to win a drawing for a $10 gift card, a mask and a Honeybear sticker.

Winners will be announced and notified at noon on Nov. 9. The more Honeybears discovered and pictures taken, the better the chance of winning.

House District 56 race focused on education funding, transportation

Republican Lehi Rep. Kay Christofferson said he hopes to be reelected to Utah House District 56 so he can continue his work on the House Transportation Committee while United Utah Party candidate Kate Walters said she wants to be an advocate for education funding.

Christofferson, who first took office in January 2013 and who defeated his Republican primary challenger, Merrilee Boyack, in June, told the Daily Herald in an interview Wednesday that he believed lawmakers and transportation officials “need to be looking down (into) the future a lot further” when planning new roads to accommodate future growth in Utah County and other areas of the state.

“Transportation is a pretty big topic with the growth of Utah,” said Christofferson, who chairs the transportation committee.

If reelected, the Lehi Republican said he would work with the Utah Department of Transportation to preserve land for future freeways or collector roads early through right-of-way easements.

Christofferson also said he “felt like there’s some unfinished businesses” with the state’s Federalism Commission, which he serves on, and said he wanted to continue pushing to get Utah fair compensation from the federal government for its public lands.

“In Utah, funding, when you budget, is a tug-of-war with the available funds,” the state representative said. “And so this is one way of saying, ‘Look, the federal government should pay up the money for these public lands,’ and that would give us resources to use for our education and transportation and other government needs.”

The topic of education funding is one of the primary reasons Walters, a third grade dual-immersion teacher at Bluffdale Elementary School, decided to run for office.

“I don’t think that the Legislature is doing such a good job at helping education,” said Walters, who has worked in the Jordan School District for 17 years. “We are consistently the lowest per-pupil spending state in the U.S.”

The third-party candidate said that, if elected, she would “be an advocate for education in the state of Utah” and would work with the Utah Education Association to “try to get ... proposals across to make sure that education is better funded.”

“I really want to push the importance of paying teachers a respectable wage,” Walters said. “Because I know, personally, a lot of really good teachers that are not in the profession because it doesn’t pay them enough.”

When asked whether she supported Amendment G, which would amend the state constitution to allow income tax revenue — which is earmarked for education funding — to be spent “to support children and to support people with a disability,” Walters said she would support it if lawmakers agreed to not reduce education funding.

“Right now, I’m leaning toward it as long as the Legislature can keep their word,” she said. “But, unfortunately, they’ve lost a lot of trust from a lot of us.”

Christofferson, who voted in favor of tax reform measures that lawmakers passed in December and later repealed, said he supported Amendment G, noting that it would free up the hands of lawmakers and “would keep us from having to raise sales taxes or cut income tax.”

Christofferson said people who were opposing the tax reform, which would have reduced the income tax rate and increased the sales tax rate, “didn’t really understand” the complicated reform, noting that it would have resulted in a net-reduction in taxes.

“So this will simplify it and make it a lot easier to balance our income,” Christofferson said about the ballot measure, which residents will vote on in the November election.

Walters criticized the “cloak and dagger” process through which the tax reform passed and said lawmakers “didn’t really let anyone know what they were doing.”

“I’m not with that,” Walters said about the tax reform, adding that she signed the citizen referendum to repeal it.

If elected, Walters said she would also advocate for term limits for state lawmakers, campaign finance reform and independent redistricting.

HD 56 covers a portion of north Utah County, including parts of Lehi, Highland and American Fork.

Sister missionary from Highland dies in Switzerland

Sister Annabelle Nielsen, 20 of Highland, died from injuries sustained in a hiking accident in Switzerland.

She was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We are deeply saddened to share news of the passing of a young missionary serving in Switzerland. Sister Annabelle Nielsen, age 20, of Highland, Utah, passed away Tuesday following a hiking accident. She and five other missionaries were hiking when Sister Nielsen tragically slipped and fell down a steep incline. She had been serving as a missionary since July 2019 and was assigned to the Alpine German-Speaking Mission,” according to Daniel Woodruff, church spokesman. “We express our sincere condolences to her family and loved ones. We pray they will feel the peace and comfort of our loving Heavenly Father as they deal with this tragedy and honor her life.

“We also pray for the other missionaries who were with Sister Nielsen at the time of the accident and are working to provide them with the necessary support as they process what happened,” Woodruff said.

Nielsen graduated from Lone Peak High School and studied at Brigham Young University prior to serving her mission, according to her Facebook information.