County leaders: We must change course before winter | VailDaily.com
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County leaders: We must change course before winter

We have all heard the recent reports about increases in cases and hospital admissions both locally and statewide. Our community is at a critical fork in the trail right now in the fight to contain COVID-19: one path leads backward, to where we were six months ago, and one leads to an improved situation with fewer restrictions and more latitude.

To be clear: One path is to enter the “high-risk” orange level, triggering restrictive and economically damaging shutdowns. The other is to achieve 100% participation from the public to improve our behavior and enter into the “cautious” blue level, where our schools, businesses, and quality of life can improve.

Our focus now needs to be on what we, as a community, can do to improve our circumstances. We should be spending our energy on this, not on worrying about what the state is mandating on the dashboard. Right now, in late fall and before the winter season of increased travel and tourism is upon us, we have been afforded a narrow window to change our course before the state forces heavier restrictions here. 

Public health is the route to economic and social recovery. There is no way around it; getting the economy back on track means controlling the pandemic.

Our summer went reasonably well because we were able to allow tourism in the valley. But that’s not a given. The impact of tighter restrictions has affected us all — it’s the “stick” end of this transaction, and it hurts. We’d be much better off pursuing the carrot. Let’s stay focused on an incentive-based approach that yields greater flexibility and comfort for businesses and the community alike.

A key factor in our communal outcome is the personal choices we each make to combat COVID-19. If everyone believes the rules are great, but that they shouldn’t apply to them in x,y, and z circumstances, then the rules aren’t effective.

We are making this sacrifice for not only our own personal health, but also for the health and wellbeing of our kids, parents, friends, and neighbors. And in the event that you are contacted by your public health department, cooperation is critical. Your willing, honest participation in a case investigation if you may have been exposed to COVID-19 is an act of goodwill for the entire community. The bottom line is that everyone has a stake in beating the pandemic, and we all need to do our part. 

Your choices do matter. Following the five commitments of containment and making smart decisions does prevent spread. Mingling with no more than one other household at a time and saying “no” to risky social gatherings is a big part of the equation, as well. We have seen that reflected by the data. When we buckle down and focus, we improve. When we lose sight of what we’re doing and let slip, we spike.

Now is the time, in the quiet of the offseason, to focus on good habits. The benefits of reaching more relaxed public health orders (the blue phase on the state dial) include:

  • More time in school instead of in quarantine
  • A stronger ski season and improved economy
  • Larger sizes for our indoor and outdoor events this winter (175 and 250)
  • Larger audiences at places of worship (175)
  • Competitive play against teams from other counties
  • Better support for your favorite local business, store, shop
  • Parents in attendance at school sports (50 participants plus spectators)

The five commitments remain of tantamount importance — we need to change course before winter. Keep up the good work, and please keep these mile markers in mind every time you make a personal choice. We got this! 

Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County Commissioner
Will Cook, CEO of Vail Health
Heath Harmon, Eagle County Public Health and Environment Director
Michael Imhof, Vail Valley Foundation
Karen Koenamann, Pitkin County Public Health
Kris Mattera, Basalt Chamber,
Jeanne McQueeney, Eagle County Commissioner
Philip Qualman, Superintendent of Eagle County Schools
Chris Romer, Vail Valley Partnership
Matt Scherr, Eagle County Commissioner


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