Opinion | Scott Vargo: Support our ski season
Summit County manager
2020 has been a year that many of us would like to forget. The emotional, financial, physical and environmental impacts of COVID have affected each and every one of us. COVID fatigue has set in for many in our community, but at this moment in time, we must reset our resolve to limit the impacts of COVID on our community and avoid another state-imposed shutdown of our economy. We must recommit to the Six Commitments of Containment to support a successful winter season and give us a chance for a better year in 2021.
There are many conflicting opinions regarding COVID and the local, state and national response. Some believe it is an overreaction to what is a minor illness for the majority who contract it and that we should embrace the notion of herd immunity — in short, letting the vulnerable members of our community suffer the consequences. Others believe that our community should isolate itself and impose much more stringent restrictions to protect those who are most vulnerable within our community.
Regardless of which opinion you may endorse, COVID is widely present in our community and is being transmitted to increasing numbers of local community members. Although we learn more about the virus each day, many questions remain unanswered: What are the long-term health effects, even for those with mild illness? How long does immunity last and will it protect me from severe illness? When will a safe and effective vaccine be widely available? These uncertainties and associated risks make each one of us confront a variety of personal decisions that affect not only our personal health but also the health and well-being of our family, friends and local community members.
Despite these and many other questions, we know that we can reduce the spread of the virus and its impacts on our community health and financial well-being by simply following what we now call the Six Commitments of Containment:
- Wear a mask
- Wash your hands
- Stay 6 feet apart
- Stay home if sick
- Get tested if sick
- Get a flu shot
These six commitments, as well as our state and local public health orders, are based on data and science.
Unfortunately, COVID fatigue has led many in our community to abandon these commitments. We’ve seen an increase in gatherings by our teens and young adults — often with the endorsement of parents, coaches, supervisors and others who may not fully understand the health risks and other implications. Young people often don’t appreciate the danger of their behavior as they are far less susceptible to severe illness or lasting impacts; however, their increased infection rates and activities put our vulnerable populations at significant risk when they come in contact with others at school, at home, at work or while shopping at the grocery store.
And here’s what is inescapable for everyone in Summit County regardless of whether you consider COVID to be little or no threat to your own physical health. As our cases rise, we subject ourselves to state-imposed restrictions that will have devastating economic impacts: potentially closing our schools and businesses, deterring tourists from visiting our community, reducing restaurant and retail capacity, and greatly restricting or closing our ski areas — the drivers of our economy in the winter months. Importantly, the severity of our state public health orders ultimately will be controlled by our COVID infection rates, regardless of our local opinions and policies.
Our community pulled together during the earliest days of the pandemic, supporting one another emotionally and financially, embracing mask-wearing from the start, adapting creatively to ensure a successful summer with outdoor dining and retail, and taking full advantage of our great outdoors. Currently, we are in the midst of the most significant surge in COVID activity we have ever experienced in Summit County: Our case incidence rate is now within the state’s more highly regulated stay-at-home category and is the sixth highest rate in Colorado.
We must now get back to basics and the Six Commitments of Containment to slow the spread of COVID. We must show our resolve to the state government and to one another if we wish to avoid more severe and economically damaging restrictions imposed by the state. For now, our community still has the opportunity to control our outcomes. We must each seize this moment to avoid economic hardship for all of us and “be the reason we have a season.”
Scott Vargo is the Summit County manager.
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