| PostIndependent.com

Carbondale mayor column: Community resources available to help with financial assistance

Dear Carbondale community,

The State of Colorado made important and necessary decisions to limit the spread of COVID-19 by enacting a stay-at-home Executive Order, which has and will continue to significantly impact our economy. The Town of Carbondale stands with the members of our community who are impacted by these policies, including those who have lost their income. We recognize that many people may be unable to pay rent and utilities and are afraid of losing their homes or businesses. 

This is the time to communicate with your landlord or your mortgage lender if you anticipate problems paying your rent or mortgage. I advise property owners to talk directly to their lenders and mortgage companies to request relief. If you are a landlord or property manager with renters, I respectfully request compassion in this time of sudden uncertainty. I urge landlords to pass on any financial relief from lenders or government relief funds to their renters.

Please be assured that, during this time of crisis, while the eviction process has not been suspended, at least until June 1, 2020 court proceedings for evictions have been suspended by the 9th Judicial District, unless there is a threat to public safety. No law enforcement agency, including Garfield County Sheriff or Carbondale Police Department, will facilitate evictions without a legal order from the 9th Judicial District. If you receive any kind of eviction paperwork, seek legal advice.

We are fortunate to live in a community where our advocacy efforts are not in vain. The broader Roaring Fork Valley community rallied around the need to suspend evictions and Judge James Berkley Boyd, Chief Justice of the Colorado 9th Judicial District responded. Through my conversation with Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, I have confidence that his priorities align with the communities to provide a much-needed respite for struggling renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have also spoken to many property managers and landlords to request understanding and flexibility and I’m pleased to report that the ones I spoke with didn’t need any convincing. While the Town has no jurisdiction over evictions or rent relief, we will continue to advocate for the community.

Attached is a snapshot of resources recently compiled by The Carbondale Emergency Task Force (CETF), and I encourage everyone to use these resources if they are in need.  This list of resources will be updated regularly and available on the CETF website.

We are in this situation together and will help each other through this crisis. We are Carbondale Strong.

Rental and Financial Relief Resources for Renters, Homeowners, and Business Owners

The Carbondale Emergency Task Force (CETF) is working to ensure that all members of our community have access to all forms of assistance. Financial assistance for individuals, including rent assistance, is being provided through the following organizations:

Legal advice can be sought through the following local organization:

All businesses, including non-profit organizations, and self-employed individuals are encouraged to explore financial assistance options with the following organizations:

  • Colorado Department of Labor and Employment: For employees, including the self-employed, to file unemployment claims. www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/unemployment
  • Carbondale Chamber of Commerce: for local financial resources, including volunteer financial experts available to offer consulting services free of charge: www.carbondale.com
  • The Colorado Small Business Development Center Networkwww.coloradosbdc.org
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration: www.sba.gov
  • Industry trade associations may be able to help you access specific financial resources and advocacy, for instance the Colorado Restaurant Association: www.corestaurant.org

The community is encouraged to visit the Carbondale Emergency Task Force (CETF) webpage at for all public announcements and updates from the task force in English and Spanish, as well as news alerts and direction on public health from the state and county.

Dan Richardson is the mayor of the town of Carbondale.

Around the Corner: Harkening back to my wasteful youth

With the toilet paper aisles empty in pretty much every store in the community, I cannot help but think of how wasteful I was in my youth.

Like most adolescents who grew up in a quiet rural community, my friends and I spent countless hours and nights tossing roll after roll of Charmin over the eaves of classmates’ houses every weekend.

I can’t imagine what my parents must have thought as they had to restock the house supply of TP on a weekly basis.

While most teenagers were out drinking or partaking in illicit behavior, I ran with a group of close friends that pulled pranks, gags and sometimes just walked around the empty streets of Jerome, Idaho, playing fun games to keep one another entertained.

Being part of the good kids club meant we had fun without damaging property or breaking any laws. We might have pushed the line between mischief and mayhem a few times, but it was all in an effort to occupy our idle hands and minds. 

It all began as little pranks of maybe filling the tree in the front yard of one of the cute girls we grew up with, with a dozen rolls of bath tissue, but it escalated quickly.

Nothing was of limits, from homes, a car, to yard ornaments. You name it, we probably wrapped it in TP.

We even had a home base in the local park where we would meet, plot and set out from on the way to our next target.

We would run reconnaissance missions, marking our next target, planning the best way to attack, and always looking for our next opportunity.

Like most rural towns we had only one stoplight, right in the center of town.

One night, on a return trip through the heart of J-Town after another successful mission, one of my friends blurted out we should TP the intersection.

As we loitered in front of a prominent insurance building scheming about how we could complete the task, a police cruiser stopped at the red light after leaving the station just a few blocks down the street.

I have no idea who said it, but all I heard was someone ask — what would they do if we ran. Without another word, we all took off, and sure enough they came after us.

I wasn’t blessed with the ability to run fast, but I could be elusive at times. Our group was made of mostly high school football players. I was on the team as well; to this day when people ask me what position I played I tell them — Left Out.

On that night my slipperiness prevailed, and I returned to our rally point where most of our group was waiting unscathed.

We did a head count and noticed two members were missing. As we all caught our breath, out of the corner of our eyes rolled up that same police cruiser.

Sitting in the back of said cruiser were the two missing members of the club.

The officers did a great job keeping a straight face, as did our two friends acting like they were cuffed as they got out of the car. Turns out the officers were bored as well and just wanted to have a little fun with us.

The encounter did however convince us to lay low for a bit. It took us a month or maybe less to stockpile our supplies, before we decided to carry out the plan, which was to cover the intersection with as many brands of bath tissue as we could find.

With two to three people on each corner, we chucked rolls of tissue back and forth to one another trying to clog the intersection with as much toilet paper as possible. 

The screeching of tires and blaring sirens rushing towards us shattered the silence of the crisp fall night, less than 20 minutes into our elaborate plan.

Like the pellets in a shotgun shell everyone scattered.

Unlike our last brush with the law my elusiveness didn’t pay off, as one officer cut me off as I took a shortcut between buildings, nearly sliding under his vehicle as I put on the brakes.

When I jumped all I heard was “freeze!” Like I was carved in stone, I didn’t move an inch.

I and the other slowest member of the group were the only two nabbed, and to make sure we didn’t get any ideas of trying the prank again, the officers made my cohort and me pick up every single piece of tissue we had left at the scene.

And of course that was the only time there was traffic, a line of cars sat idling at the intersection, watching and laughing as we tried to gather all the tissue strewn across the road and on the light poles. 

As I sit here, having lost track of how many days I have been working from home, keeping my trips out as limited as possible for a journalist. All I can do is watch our supply of bathroom tissue dwindle day by day, and wish I had not wasted the stockpile I did in my youth.

I find myself telling my family to limit their use — 3 to 4 square limit please, I catch myself yelling as they head for the bathroom.


Publisher’s column: Focusing on our why as we change

Recently, I penned a column about not panicking as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. So, of course on the day the piece came out, I panicked.

Like many businesses making difficult decisions with declining revenues, I knew our time was coming. 

I spent the day in a haze. I went to bed that night with a single goal: For the day to end.

The next morning, I woke up inspired. Instead of focusing on the bottom line — the how and what of what we do, I focused on “our why” — why we do what we do and why it matters.

The reason for this focus: When this ends, we will be battered and bruised. The “how” we do things will be changed, but the “why” will not.

And what is the Post Independent’s why?

“We believe an informed and connected community is important. We inform and connect our community with innovative approaches to storytelling and marketing, with journalism ethics and marketing integrity as our core.”

Inform, innovate and connect.

These are our North Stars as we get through this, and our guide to be in a better position to deliver on “our why” when this is done.

It’s a strange time in that we have never been more read — our digital traffic has more than doubled and we still have high pick-up rates at our racks. But it’s also a time we need to make changes to deliver on our why now and into the future.

Below are changes going into effect this week and why.

Our people:

My mission is to preserve as many of our great team members as possible for as long as I can, which is why I will make the changes to our business model that allow us to fulfill our commitment to connecting our audiences with the information they want and need through this time of crisis. That said, the PI team will have pay cuts and reduced hours. 

How we do business will no doubt look different – as it will for every small business in our community and state. Which leads to …

Two fewer publication days:

We will be moving to publishing five days a week, Monday through Friday effective this week. The plan is to move Sunday inserts into Friday’s paper.

The why: Our Saturday and Sunday publications have long been our lowest performing publications in terms of connecting with our readers or business partners.

When you factor in there are no sports or events going on — major pieces in weekend coverage — it made sense to drop these days.

We also know our locals have a rhythm with the Monday through Friday papers, and didn’t want to disrupt that. In addition, our website will continue to be a 24-7 news resource as it is now.

When this ends, and tourism ramps back up and sports get going, we will look at how to provide that coverage through the lens of innovation, which may include a Saturday edition.

A new approach to opinion:

We will be revamping our opinion page, terminating all national and local columnists contracts, as well as removing the opinion comics from the page.

The why: As we looked at our North Stars, we asked do these pages inform, connect or innovate? Some might argue they inform, but in this day and age with such deep divides in partisan politics and growing but restrictive thought bubbles, we didn’t see how it connects us, especially the national columnists and political cartoons.

We often are accused of being liberal or conservative based on the opinion page, and for most us, the section is not part of our main mission.

Can an opinion page connect? We think so, if it’s used as a form of constructive dialogue. In the short-term, we will run letters to the editor that promote constructive dialogue and perhaps some columns. Or we may not run it on certain days and use that space for news. 

In the long-term, we will be looking at how we can innovate and make those pages more informative and connecting.

Our final pages:

We will be removing the comics and horoscopes. However, we will be keeping the weather and puzzles.

The why:  By eliminating this, we keep a person employed at the PI. The weather page remains as a public service. We eliminated the weather page a couple months ago as a test, expecting few people would notice. We were wrong. Our phones blew up. Many seniors rely on that page, and even heard stories about how they use it as a conversation piece. Ditto for the puzzles.

I understand that if there was ever a time we needed a laugh, it’s now. We’re using the opportunity to look at options and a chance for innovation.

Other publications:

Last week, after much debate, we printed the Locals’ Choice section as a way to celebrate local businesses. We plan to move forward with the Cycling Guide, as that is one of the few things people can do in this climate. We are reviewing next steps for our summer magazine, Escape to Garfield County, and our weekly publication the Rifle Citizen Telegram.

Final notes:

We don’t make any of these decisions lightly. But as we focus on our why, you will see more innovative ways for us to inform, innovate and connect.

For example, we’ve connected with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Bank of Colorado to create a print and online presence to support our county’s restaurants.

We’re in the process of working with chambers from Aspen to Rifle to create an online e-commerce site for our local retailers.

And we will continue to look at approaches to news that meet our North Star. If you have questions or ideas as we move forward, please let me know.

And please support as many local businesses as possible. We’re in this together. And together, we got this.

Jerry Raehal is the publisher of the Post Independent. You can reach him at jraehal@postindependent.com.

Toussaint column: Finding the Golden Egg

On March 19, I walked away from my neighbor’s house teary-eyed with a grade AA-jumbo lump in my throat.

I’ve never gotten that choked up over eggs before.

The neighbor who gave me those gorgeous, golden-brown organic eggs said just to “pay it forward.” Still, I left $1.85 in loose change — all I could scare up without leaving my house — in return for her precious gift.

My egg hunt came a month early because of the coronavirus.

I’ve been self-quarantined since March 8. Aspen, always a petri dish with its hordes of international visitors, had confirmed COVID-19 cases on March 7. I assumed it would arrive downvalley soon, and Garfield County reported its first case March 14.

I’m over 60, and I have two health conditions that make me likely fodder for the grim reaper. But staying home has proved trickier than I envisioned, mostly due to my primary relationship and the need to eat.

As Facebook sometimes proclaims, relationships can be “complicated.” My husband is 89. He can drive, and because he wants to remain useful, he goes to the post office, library and grocery store daily. He’s had two minor strokes, and his doctor encourages him to engage his “executive” brain functions, so I usually endorse those errands.

But not now.

After weighing the risk of contracting COVID-19, we both vowed to shop just once a week. Our good intentions lasted less than 24 hours. During his first foray to City Market, my husband found the store nearly denuded: no bananas, bread, berries or eggs. Because the supply truck was due “in a couple hours,” he checked back again, later the same day.

Somehow, we had quickly morphed from shopping once a week to multiple times daily.

Distressed, I wrote an online “what-should-I-do” post. My lament netted 98 comments in less than a day. I had struck a nerve.

Soon, elders and those with underlying health issues began pestering Carbondale’s City Market to offer a senior shopping hour, akin to those offered by Whole Foods. Various folks got various, inconsistent answers. Repeated inquiries netted sympathetic clucking, confusion and no action.

Meanwhile, I still had no eggs.

Along with Ashley Weitzel, another volunteer from a new Facebook group called “Carbondale CO Mutual Aid,” I began exploring City Market’s online ordering and pickup services. Those options aren’t offered in Carbondale; the closest would be El Jebel.

Ashley tried an outside app called Instacart to order and pick up groceries from the El Jebel City Market and found that it’s not so “insta.” It requires 3-4 days’ lead time.

Online, I griped, “Outside a narrow downtown loop, Carbondale has no in-town bus. We can’t order online but must drive 12 miles round-trip to El Jebel. IF a local senior happens to be tech savvy, IF they can figure out online ordering, IF they can afford a $4.95 ordering fee and IF they can drive to El Jebel, this online ordering and delivery might work.” Given my advantages (being articulate, online, able to walk, having a car and a bit of cash) I could probably manage it. But many seniors can’t.

After a maddening 12-hour day of dead ends, mixed messages and frustration, I decided to contact City Market/Kroger management in Denver. Although my phone messages and emails went unanswered, my online carping did yield eggs. (Not once, but twice: I was given a dozen brown and a dozen white from different neighbors.)

Wholly unbidden, eight friends and strangers also offered to go shopping on my behalf.

Then, in a roundabout way, my quest led to something that will assuredly never happen again: my “scooping” the editor of this newspaper.

A former colleague of mine, a retired writer and publicist, sent me the tough-to-find contact information for Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s nationwide CEO. “Go right to the top,” she advised. I did, and within an hour and a half, I got both phone call and a news release announcing senior shopping hours at City Markets — not only here, but throughout Colorado.

To my astonishment, I learned that my editor at the Post Independent hadn’t gotten the news release, so I happily forwarded it.

It’s hard to say whether I felt more jubilant about sourcing the paper’s lead story, about the appreciative notes I got from seniors all up and down the valley, or about those beautiful eggs.

Among the things I most treasure in this valley is its sense of community. We persevere. We rally. We lend a hand, whether that means digging a stranger’s car out of a snow bank, sheltering a friend during a wildfire, or gifting eggs to a neighbor.

Seems like the Easter Bunny found me early, despite my quarantine.

Nicolette Toussaint lives in Carbondale. Her column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.

Merriott column: What kind of world are we leaving for Keith Richards

I read last Thursday that Mitch McConnell and his Senate cohorts had proposed an emergency $1 trillion stimulus package to deal with the impending melt down on Wall Street without any Democratic Party input. I remarked to Carly, “Now I wonder how that’s going to work for Mitch”

Well, now its Tuesday night and, surprise, it isn’t done. Oh yeah, it is now doubled to $2 trillion and still growing. Coincidentally, it is probably about as much as the Trump tax bill put into the hands of corporate taxpayers over the last couple years.

Well, I for one know how the Dems must feel to not be consulted because no one seems to consult us independents in Colorado to see what we think about issues either. This is despite the fact we now make up almost 40% of Colorado voters and are the fastest growing bloc of voters. This especially among young people.

Some would say it took balls for Mitch to do something like he did. I would instead chalk it up to arrogance and stupidity. Hopefully, yours are a dying breed, Mitch. That’s because without strong, honest and inclusive leadership, and really soon, the world as we know it will probably no longer exist.

Never mind climate change, the world’s largest economy is at a real risk of another Great Depression. The debt at the last bailout in 2008 was at $10.8 trillion, and with the latest tax cut it has now ballooned to $23.5 trillion (yes, that’s more than double). This bailout will add at least another $2 trillion.

We are in uncharted waters here folks, and I for one don’t think you can just keep printing money without deleterious effects. At some point, somebody is going to have to pay this tab.

Let’s look at a couple examples here. With the last “$700 billion bailout” in 2008 and the recent $1.5 trillion tax cuts, I think corporate America has pulled a real fast one on we the taxpayers.

One way is by doing stock buy backs. It is important for all of us to understand the basic effects of this. Here is an example of how that works — stay with me.

A company has $10 billion of stock outstanding and gets a $1 billion tax cut, but instead of investing it in assets to grow its business into the future or giving its employees well-deserved pay raises and benefits, it buys back its own stock. What does this do? It drives up the per-share value of the stock (as there are fewer shares outstanding), and it likely triggers top executive bonuses which are typically tied to the price per share (going up).

These executives get tens (if not hundreds) of millions in bonuses (cash and stock), and voila, the tax cuts have not made it to people who really need them.

A real example of this: The big four airlines just spent $42.5 billion in buying back their own stock between 2014-19. How much are they asking out of this $2 trillion stimulus? — $50 billion. Coincidence?

This is why the Democrats want restrictions on the $500 billion set aside for corporate America in the $2 trillion stimulus. The hogs are at the trough and snorting for favors. Corporate America should not be rewarded for mismanagement and self-enrichment.

There are multiple stories like the one above, and then there is the one out of Billings, Montana, where the lobbying arm of the U.S. coal industry is asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty relief, tax cuts that are earmarked at covering beneficiary payments for black lung disease, and of course a break in having to decrease the amount of mine reclamation fees due to the financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

What the heck? These benefits could be worth $800 million a year to an industry that should have been phased out and its employees retrained at least 10 years ago. Natural gas and renewable energy are cheaper and much cleaner.

Other random notes:

• Average CEO compensation rose 940% between 1978 and 2018 compared with a 12% rise in the average American worker pay.

• The 2008 bailout of AIG (deemed too big to fail) resulted in $185 million in bonuses to AIG executives.

God help us if something like this happens again. What the hell kind of world are we leaving for Keith Richards anyhow?!

By the way, kudos to the Garfield County commissioners for authorizing a $100,000 emergency food assistance grant to LIFT-UP to help ensure no one goes hungry during this pandemic and economic disaster.

Frosty Merriott is a CPA in Carbondale and served on Town Council for 10 years. He is a registered Independent, considers himself a fiscal conservative and an original tree hugger from Louisiana. He prefers to shoot his grizzlies up close and personal with his Nikon camera and not participate in blood sport.

Around the Corner: Parenting during a pandemic

Social distancing is hard for adults, but I can’t imagine what it would be like as a teenager.

When I was that age if I wasn’t working or going to school I would probably be hanging out with my friends. 

If we ever had a break from school we would find something to do, whether it was going for a drive, working on our cars, going to the movies, hunting, fishing, or even hanging at one another’s houses just to pass the time.

Neither my generation, nor my parent’s generation, ever experienced the effects like we are now with the outbreak of COVID-19 taking hold of the world.

With state and county regulations we are supposed to minimize our trips to the store, and with movie theaters closed, and restaurants on take-out and delivery only, most of us lack any interaction with the outside world.

I get it, teenagers are different nowadays, they like to spend countless hours cooped up in their room, playing on their smart gadgets or watching Netflix.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent trying to get their teenager to emerge from the stagnant confines of their bedroom for a little fresh air and some family time.

This is the second week of no school, which would typically be spring break. Children should be playing in the streets, filling the parks, playgrounds and skate parks around the county.

Instead they are all on soft lockdown, helping minimize the spread of coronavirus.

To help do my part I canceled a trip back to Idaho I had planned months ago. My brothers and I were going to help my mom clean up around the farmhouse to get the place ready for summer. After days of deliberation we decided as a family to be safe and postpone the spring-cleaning for another time.

With my normal Saturday workday, writing and editing photos, when Sunday came around I needed some sunshine and crisp Colorado spring air to clear my mind.

It took some prodding and a little coaxing, but come Sunday afternoon the family was out walking and enjoying the mild temperatures.

Practicing the proper 6-foot distancing we strolled around the neighborhood taking in the greening grass and flowers pushing through the soil in front yards.

It was a time we could unplug and forget a little of what is going on in the world. We did cross paths with a few neighbors, and everyone seemed happy just to get a little social interaction even if it was from a distance.

After returning home we helped out a local business by ordering a little take-out and sat down for a family meal before the teenager headed back to her room to hide from her parents who are clearly too embarrassing to hang out with.


Stein column: Taking care of students, staff and one another through crisis

Amidst this public health crisis, there are many opportunities to celebrate and give thanks. I want to acknowledge the many individual and collective efforts in our community to support one another during this unprecedented situation. Community members have reached out to see how they can support meal delivery for our students or help in any way they can. Countless staff members have worked overtime to come up with creative solutions to the new challenges presenting every day.

The most obvious challenge facing schools across the country is how to transform schooling from an in-person to an online model. This jump is much easier for higher education, where professors and students are set up for and familiar with digital teaching and learning. For PreK-12 schools, the shift is more of a leap.

Many schools around the country jumped quickly to online lessons for their students as soon as schools closed their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak. But we have learned from school districts that quickly attempted extensive remote learning activities that the lack of preparation can lead to lackluster implementation.

As we transition to remote learning, we will prioritize personal connection over academic rigor for the first couple of weeks of the closure. We are focusing on the big picture: our students are in school for 13 years, and right now, amidst change and crisis, the greatest need is to build a solid foundation for staying connected for the remainder of the school year.

Therefore, our primary concern right now is that students stay connected to their teachers and to one another. For the first two weeks after spring break, we will provide recommended learning activities to keep students engaged and connected. Teachers and crew leaders from each school will reach out to every student for an individual check-in starting on April 1. Family liaisons, counselors, and administrators will also conduct wellness checks for all families to assess their needs and make every effort to address their concerns; we have already begun contacting our most vulnerable families to make sure that their immediate needs are met.

Beginning on March 30, the Roaring Fork Schools will provide nutritious, free meals to all children for the duration of the school closure. Grab-and-go sack meals containing breakfast and lunch will be distributed in multiple locations throughout the Roaring Fork community.

According to Gov. Polis, it is unlikely that in-person schooling will resume before the end of the school year. Therefore, we are planning now to be able to deliver high-quality remote learning from April 20 through the remainder of the crisis. Teachers will be working over the two weeks after spring break to develop online lesson plans and, for younger students, printed materials that can be sent home via food delivery routes. We are highly concerned about providing adequate support for emerging bilingual students, students with special needs, and students at risk; we will need to work creatively to continue to engage these students in the event of prolonged closures.

Unlike younger students, high school seniors are facing the pressing deadline of graduation. We will be reviewing all seniors’ records to determine specific supports to enable them to graduate on time. This may entail flexibility in giving students opportunities to demonstrate mastery of course content without completing all of the assignments. We are guided by the principle that we will not penalize students for circumstances which are out of their control.

One barrier faced by children across the country is the digital divide. Fortunately, all Roaring Fork students in grades 3-12 have been issued Chromebooks. We have been working for years to partner with internet providers to offer affordable or free wireless access in low income communities. There are still some homes without access, and we are working with our municipal and corporate partners in an effort to narrow the divide to zero. We are grateful to see internet providers stepping up during this crisis to provide free internet to those who need it.

The economic slowdown caused by the crisis has workers everywhere concerned about their wages. All salaried staff of the Roaring Fork School District will be paid their normal salaries and all hourly staff will be paid for their normally scheduled hours throughout the entire closure period, whether or not there is a requirement to report to work as normal. Those who are part-time or do not have a set schedule will receive pay based on their average hours worked over the past six months. We haven’t solved every challenge yet, but we are working creatively and collaboratively to support our students, staff, and families through this crisis.

Many families in our community are struggling right now, and there are needs that go beyond what we can provide as a school district. We are grateful for the partnership of community members and organizations that are working to provide health, housing, and nutrition assistance for our families.

Everyone has a part in this — whether it’s staying home or serving on the front lines in an essential role — and we are getting through this together. I pray that we will look back on this crisis as a time when our entire community worked together to weather these uncertain times.

Rob Stein is superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools.

DeFrates column: Do the responsible thing, and please just stay home

Saturday night, March 14, my husband was reading bedtime books to the kids at about 7:45 p.m. He was exhausted from another week of work, ski patrolling at Snowmass Mountain, and was enjoying some quiet snuggle time.

While he was in the middle of “I Want My Hat Back,” his phone, which was on the kitchen counter where I was cleaning up from dinner, received a text. I accidentally snooped on his screen, and discovered from that short message that he no longer had a job the next morning, as Snowmass Mountain was closing immediately due to the governor’s order.

Our carefully planned future suddenly looked impossible. Our world was turned on its head, and I have been riding the waves of frustration, grief, hope and outright panic like so many others over these past two weeks. There is not a lot of margin for error for people living paycheck to paycheck in resort communities, and the gulf that quickly formed between us being “OK” and us being “something else entirely” gets wider every day.

Yet, and it is from behind not a few tears that I say this: I’m glad our state is acting the way it is. Would I prefer that the governor not juxtapose his lost ski vacation with alleged sympathy for those who have completely lost their livelihood? Yes. I don’t think he has any personal understanding of what he has done to us and the thousands of families like us. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

Every day that our community responsibly practices social distancing, and every day we choose to give up the luxury of not caring how our lives impact others, we are buying our hospitals, emergency workers and medical professionals a little more time to be ready to save lives. By delaying the rate of infections, or flattening the curve, as the media prefers to say, our personal sacrifices and uncertainty are giving more high-risk people the chance to get the life-saving interventions they deserve.

My family is choosing to value life over petty political semantics, or selfish ignorance, or even our own economic well-being.

And, to be honest, we are not doing it gracefully.

I have complained, and doubted, and tried to argue my way out of it for days now. I searched hard to find someone to blame, or some new information to at least partially discredit the new reality that the world is facing. But the advice of every expert I read or talked with was the same: It’s time to stay home.

So, to the skeptics, the conspiracy theorists, the few bar owners who are a little short on community responsibility, and all those who do not believe that COVID-19 should affect them personally, I say this: It is time to grow up.

From someone who may not be able to pay their mortgage in May, please stay home.

From someone who is responsible for entertaining/educating three kids younger than 7 for more than 12 hours a day now, please stay home.

From someone who is not in a high-risk population, please stay home.

From someone who is a rank-and-file member of the rugged individualists club that thrives in this state, please think of your neighbors before yourselves and stay home.

It’s not about whether you expect to end up with the disease, or whether you expect you’ll get a mild case. It’s about whether someone you do not even know may end up in the hospital with COVID-19 (or any of another thousand reasons) and not have a ventilator to let them breathe, or even a bed to lie in.

Social distancing is the choice to follow the speed limit of our times. Like a speed limit, it is easy to ignore if no one’s watching, endangering people who you can’t see for the sake of your own selfish whim.

You can choose to visit underground happy hours, or pack spring-break beaches, raking up a cost which will be shouldered by the whole community. Or you can choose to make a choice that protects the lives of others, and promises a shorter end to all this for everyone.

So, it is with gritted, oppositional-defiant teeth that I implore every single responsible adult, as well as everyone who still feels invincible, to do the one right thing we can all do and practice social distancing.

I can’t promise that it will make your life better tomorrow, or even next week, but it will save someone else’s life and allow you to stand proudly in the future as you look back on the choices you made in this global moment.

Lindsay DeFrates is a freelance writer living in Glenwood Springs. She can be reached at http://www.roaringforkwriter.com.

Guest opinion: Playing the long game

As a professor of public health for the past 22 years, it is clear to me that we are in the very early stages of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Playing the “short game” is fine for now — people are giving this virus the due diligence it certainly deserves. Public health history, however, has taught us that rapid development of effective medication and vaccines is not realistic. Instead, it will ultimately be long-term changes in health behavior that can stem the morbidity and mortality of this new virus.

This “long-game” vision of beating the virus has two parts. Part one is about containing the spread — this is currently receiving ample attention in our community, in Colorado, and in the nation. Part two is about avoiding death for people who do contract the virus. This is a grim topic that is not receiving adequate attention.

Having studied health behavior change for my entire career, I wish to acknowledge that the advice offered in this column suggest actions that are very difficult for most people to adopt. The advice is centered on a single goal — increasing what is known as maximum oxygen capacity. This is a measure of how much oxygen the lungs can take in during increased exercise. In essence, it is a measure of pulmonary fitness — one that determines how well the lungs may perform under the stress of COVID-19.

Fortunately, maximum oxygen capacity is something that anyone can increase through daily exercise. It is an incremental process, and one that requires a long-term investment in proactive self-care. For everyone, but especially those people over 60 years of age, who is not a runner, biker, Nordic skier, etc., now is a good time to begin the slow and gradual process of making this all-so-important investment in fortifying the pulmonary system in the event of being infected by the virus.

This proactive self-care is actually a key aspect of changing the death toll. Ultimately, the study of epidemiology comes down to three factors that each influence how quickly an epidemic (or pandemic) spreads: 1) the agent (the virus itself), 2) the environment (e.g., crowed urban conditions, weather, social habits), and 3) the host (i.e., the person infected). It is currently the case that control efforts are focused on the host, particularly isolating people during the infectious period (this begins about two days before symptoms occur and extends several days after recovery). Changing the “host factor” by increasing maximum oxygen uptake is a precaution that will address the fatality rate of the virus, rather than the rate of transmission.

Adopting the daily health behavior of progressively more challenging aerobic workouts is, of course, not an easy task. It will take concerted efforts for each person to find his/her own “best methods” to find and maintain the routine that works best for them. Adopting exercise behaviors in concert with friends and family members is extremely helpful, especially when it comes to outdoor aerobic activities. Even more important is the act of learning new skills that favor successful adoption of the behaviors (e.g., learning how to stretch and condition leg muscles to avoid injuries when walking quickly, jogging or running). For added motivation, people who are not in optimal shape aerobically will also benefit from daily workout routines in the form of fortifying the body against heart disease, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and even some forms of cancer.

Dr. Richard Crosby is a professor of public health and holds a PhD in health behavior from Indiana University. He is the author of numerous textbooks on the topic of health behavior and has published well over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles addressing theories of health behavior change. He has recently moved to Glenwood Springs.

Publisher’s column: Panic at the Costco — shifting away from the mob mentality

In our relationship, my wife and I have some very distinct roles.

For example: She worries a lot. I tend to worry about nothing.  We balance each other out.

It was interesting, however, as the coronavirus news started to come out that neither of us were worried. Sure, we took it seriously, but we weren’t running to the stores or buying masks. That view changed last week when she made a trip to a store.

“Costco is scary,” she texted me. “If people aren’t panicking, going to a store will make them.”

One incident on her trip: My wife stopped in an aisle to look at something, a woman came behind her and hit her with her cart. My wife visibly stumbled, yelled out in pain, and looked back to see what happened.

The woman who hit my wife looked at her, did not apologize and just started shoving stuff into her cart.

My wife, who is probably too nice of a person (and made me write that there some nice people at Costco, too), was bothered by the lack of consideration this woman had for her by not apologizing, but also the lack of consideration for others as this woman — and many others — was clearly in panic mode.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Apparently that doesn’t apply to people if they’re afraid of not having any toilet paper.

Coronavirus should be taken seriously, but at this point, a mob mentality of panic is a bigger concern. We need to readjust this mob mentality from fear to helping — each other and ourselves.

So how we can do this? Here are a couple of ideas:

• If you go to the store, fight the urge to buy everything, even if others are doing so. Buy what you need for the next couple of weeks, not more. If we do that, we should avoid shortages.

• Be considerate of each other in public. At this point, we’re not around each other that often, so we might as well make it pleasant. … from a socially acceptable distance.

• Take this one day at a time. The timeframe keeps changing. The truth is, we don’t know how long this will last, and I know that can cause its own level of stress. People’s jobs and businesses’ futures are at stake. That’s a very real fear. We cannot control the future, but fear of the future can overwhelm and control us.

• Stay connected. For some people like me — who is an introvert at heart, there are aspects to social distancing I like. But as humans, we have to stay connected. We have scheduled FaceTime for our kids and their friends on almost a daily basis. At the Post Independent, we’re launching a Happy 1/2 Hour webinar with our team to keep us connected even if we can’t be in the same office. Figure out ways to do so.

• Practice gratitude. In times of distress, it’s good to focus on areas of gratitude. I’m grateful for being able to get my work done from home, but also getting daily updates from my kids about their Lego challenges. (They are not interruptions but unplanned breaks).

• Try to find a North Star to get you through this. I’m also a big believer in seasons and reasons. We all have seasons of highs and lows, and while we’re in the season, we may not understand why. But all seasons pass and somehow make us stronger afterward.

• Stay healthy by working out physically and mentally. Stress will break down your immune system. Working out and taking care of yourself mentally are important.

Those are a couple of ideas but I’m certain there are plenty more.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember we are all in this together. There is a ripple effect of actions, either positive and negative. We can control that.

Now, I have no doubt some of you will read this and want to blame the media. And I get that. We are told almost daily we are either doing too much coverage of the coronavirus or we’re not doing enough.

Trying to find the balance of informing the public is a tough one and one that our newsroom as well as our sister papers are in constant contact about. I’m proud of our team.  

But we also don’t control how people act. We didn’t cause the NBA or other sports to suspend their seasons. We didn’t cause President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency, nor cause Gov. Jared Polis to shut down businesses. We reported on it.

Some people read news stories and are fine. Some people run to the store and buy all the toilet paper. And some people say we’re causing a panic.

Whether you think we’re doing too much or too little, I can tell you we are constantly trying to meet the public’s need for information. And if you have ideas on how we can better provide that coverage, let us know.

Thanks for reading. Be safe.

Jerry Raehal is publisher of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. You can reach him at jraehal@postindependent.com.