Romer: Want to live like a local? Wear a mask

Visitors, second-home owners, and new residents to Eagle County yearn to live like a local. Everyone wants to know locals’ favorite hiking trails, restaurants, neighborhood parks, and insider tips.

That is understandable. The Vail Valley offers a unique mixture of small-town life, rural character, mountain living, and big city amenities, which creates a “just right” quality of life balance that even Goldilocks would appreciate.

But our story is no fairytale. We are dependent upon (and appreciative of) our visitors and second-home owners and we encourage you to take advantage of your stay here, enjoying all we have to offer. Please know our community is taking the coronavirus concerns very seriously and we ask that you adapt to the same expectations of our residents.

If you want to truly live like a local, please follow the five commitments of containment by honoring social distancing requirements, wearing a mask, washing your hands, staying home if experiencing illness, and gettting tested if you have symptoms.

The five commitments are not designed to be onerous. They are easily implemented and are designed to fight COVID-19 in order to keep our community safe. Wearing a mask or face covering seems to have become a polarizing and political issue — which is somewhat mind boggling.

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The evidence is strong that maintaining distancing, covering coughs and sneezes, limiting person-to-person contact time, increasing ventilation in indoor spaces and socializing in outdoor environments are effective behavior modifications that people can adopt to reduce their risk. 

It is also true that mask wearing is a good complementary self-protection strategy when worn in indoor environments where social distancing is difficult, and ventilation is poor, and masks are properly donned.

Eagle County has enjoyed widespread support during this crisis because the county’s mitigation and control efforts have been grounded in (best available) science while also being politically nuanced in acknowledging the limits of validated knowledge, the realities of human psychology, and the role of personal responsibility in confronting COVID. Eagle County has also been smart to recognize that laws and governance are only effective when applied in a manner that maintains the consent of those being governed.   

It is increasingly common to fall into the easy trap that compartmentalizes the world into narrow, uncompromisingly defined pockets of “strong” and “weak” or “good” and “evil.” Instead, we must channel our emotions and recognize the individual and societal benefits of doing our part by wearing a mask sans government mandate.

Mandating behavior change at the government level is a pretty extreme step, and enforcement of any new regulation will be a challenge. But mask-wearing is a common sense, easily implemented and necessary effort that should not be polarizing.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite Star Wars quotes, when Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) says, “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy!” to which Obi-Wan Kenobi replies “Only a Sith deals in absolutes; I will do what I must.”

Let’s all channel our inner Obi-Wan and remember that wearing a face covering or mask is not a political statement. Rather, it is something we should simply embrace and do because it is the right thing.

Wearing a face covering is a compassion test. It’s a decency test. It’s a social responsibility test. And most importantly, it is a commonsense approach to fighting the coronavirus and keeping our community safe. Thank you in advance for helping to protect yourself and our residents during your stay. And remember, if you want to live like a local you’ll wear a mask.

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