Opinion | Scott M. Estill: We need more ‘bureaucrats’ like this
Challenges Choices Changes
Who is Amy Wineland? I was reading a recent column in the Summit Daily News, and her name appeared alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci. Wineland was described as an “unelected bureaucrat” whose “political biases have disrupted our lives, our economy and our schools.” This reference was with respect to her managing the Summit County response to COVID-19. Bold accusations no doubt, but something seemed a bit biased, at least to my cynical eyes, with the writer’s overall negative perspective and apparent dislike for the state of life in Summit County.
So who is Wineland, and what are her political biases? Why is she trying to ruin our lives? Why will it take years to clean up her mess?
A brief Google search quickly informed me that she has been with the Summit County Public Health Department for about 20 years and currently serves as its director. She is a registered nurse and naturopathic doctor, and she has a Master of Science in nursing. She runs a public health program with a simple mission to “prevent disease and promote and protect the health of the community.” Before COVID-19, she kept a low profile and primarily responded to localized and more common health concerns (seasonal flu, mumps, etc.). COVID-19 changed the game for Wineland and all other public health officials around the world.
What was her politically biased response to COVID-19 for Summit County? She had a three-point plan: wearing a mask in public, contact tracing for those exposed and educating our community about the virus. For this, she was recognized as a statewide leader among her peers.
I am unable to discern any political bias here, unless trying to save lives is somehow a position for which there is current opposition.
I haven’t heard any uproar from the citizenry about education or contact tracing. Both seem to be highly effective and uncontroversial. And let’s not complain about masks at this stage in the game. While it seems impossible to get 100% agreement on any issue (only 98% of Americans believe the Earth is a sphere), most of us would prefer not to wear masks. As in, never again would be too soon. Yet, they are remarkably effective as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Even if you don’t care about others, at least you likely realize that wearing a mask and washing hands are simple ways to protect yourself from whatever current virus variant might be circulating. But what if you considered the plight of others, even if only for a split second? The New Testament is short and to the point: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. In the name of personal freedom, some in our community have long forgotten what it means to actually help others. More mask mandates are likely coming, and I, like most others, will begrudgingly comply. It seems like a very minimal sacrifice to help my fellow humans potentially avoid a COVID-19-related hospitalization and become yet another statistic.
To date, there have been 10 deaths from COVID-19 in Summit County, according to data from the state. (Summit Daily reporting indicates there are seven deaths from COVID-19, and the news team has asked the public health department to provide clarification on the discrepancy.) By comparison, other rural counties in Colorado have experienced many more deaths: Alamosa, 52; Delta, 73; Otero, 45; and Teller, 20. Instead of criticisms of our local “bureaucrats,” it seems to me that congratulations and thanks are in order to the entire Summit County Public Health Department. Without its leadership and guidance, the pandemic could have been far worse here.
For those who can get vaccinated: get vaccinated. If not for you, then for the community.
We have numerous religious and cultural holidays upcoming. Each of these celebrations centers on a theme of reflection, rebirth and unity. Perhaps it is time for everyone to put down their arms, eliminate the petty hostilities and reflect on what they themselves can do to be a better person, neighbor and member of our very connected community. Instead of focusing on our absolute individual rights (even at the expense of others), perhaps we can recognize that serving others produces positive results many times over. As we walk in the produce department of Safeway, none of us knows the stories of who is behind the masks of the other shoppers. Who is immunocompromised or struggling with other issues for which a COVID-19 infection could be akin to a death sentence or a financial bankruptcy?
It’s easy to write a column making accusations about local government bureaucrats. In this case, the facts don’t back it up.
Scott M. Estill’s column “Challenges, Choices, Changes” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Estill is an attorney, author and public speaker who lives in Dillon when not traveling or attending to legal matters in Denver. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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