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The three most important things

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It dawned on me the day after my youngest son had his first day of in-person school a couple weeks ago that he had just experienced his first day of high school! What a significant milestone. Now we have two boys in high school, which gives me a sense of urgency to capitalize on any teaching moment I can. COVID-19 and the insane flare-up nationwide and here in the Roaring Fork Valley is one of those moments. 

In case you haven’t heard, one out of 110 Coloradans are now contagious with COVID-19. Some counties are twice that bad, and nearly every county is trending up rapidly, including ours. The daily number of cases in Garfield County has now exceeded the highest levels seen in July. You are more at risk of contracting the virus now than at any other point in the pandemic. The hospitalizations are rising so fast that hospitals are scaling back elective procedures again. As a result, the county is now needing to prioritize case investigations based on age and occupation, and potential outbreaks, schools, and childcare facilities. For many people, the virus is wreaking havoc. 

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Thinking through how to respond to COVID-19 as a parent, let alone as mayor, is a huge challenge and one that has been especially humbling for me. As such, it’s a great opportunity for me to attempt to model for my boys how to work through such an immense crisis, one step at a time, learning as I go. COVID-19 has placed a huge burden on our community, the economy, and schools. One of the more painful lessons I’m learning is that the economy cannot bounce back until people feel safe enough to patronize businesses and restaurants again. We need to have fewer students become ill with COVID so that more students can get back to learning in person. 

These priorities are interconnected and, therefore, limiting the spread of COVID-19 is the best path to returning to normal life. This is a tough message for teenage boys but I hope to demonstrate that a good plan is to envision where our family, community and economy can be six months to a year from now and take the logical steps to make that vision a reality. Everyone has a role to play and the good news is that much of Carbondale is doing its part to move towards a healthier future. 

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I think we all have a pretty good vision of where we want to be, the question is what are those logical steps and how do we take them – collectively? Both the state and county are doing a great job disseminating information and I urge everyone to sign up for emergency alerts from www.garfield-county.com. We are also fortunate to have free access to the Colorado Exposure Notification app, a newly developed tool to notify you if and when you have been exposed to the virus. It is encouraging that 17% of people have opted into the app, a fully secure and private tool, which at this level of adoption could mean an 8% reduction in infections and a 6% reduction in deaths. A tool like this could make the difference between a bearable winter and a disastrous one. 

The next logical steps can be summed up as the ‘Big 3 in November’ – 1) avoid social gatherings; 2) wear a mask; and 3) stay at least six feet from others. As we approach the holiday season, it’s critical that Carbondalians limit, if not eliminate interaction indoors with members of other households because we are at a breaking point. By all means, please keep your social connections in healthy ways. And as always, keep washing those hands frequently and stay home if you have symptoms. 

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Lastly, if you need help or support – please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Town, your Neighborhood Hero, Garfield Human Services, lamedichi.info, ColoradoCrisisServices.org, Lift-Up, the Hope Center or others. If it wasn’t crystal clear before this crisis, it sure is now that Carbondalians love to help others. It reminds me of a children’s book we used to read to our boys titled ‘The Three Questions’ by Jon J. Muth. The book’s closing was a good message then and still is for teenagers and for us all: The most important time is now, the most important one is always the one you are with, and the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. 

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