Guest column: Time to shift gears — Confronting Covid in Garfield County |

Guest column: Time to shift gears — Confronting Covid in Garfield County

John Krousouloudis and Debbie Bruell
Garfield County Democratic Party

Despite the recent surges in Covid cases sweeping Garfield County, the commissioners continue to dismiss the advice of health science experts and downplay the threat of the virus. They talk about saving our economy, yet their one and only strategy is to allow businesses to stay open as much as possible.

We urge our commissioners to take a different approach: acknowledge the severity of our public health situation; heed the advice of medical science about slowing the spread; commit county funds toward helping our businesses and employees; and work collaboratively with municipal governments and other local entities to seek additional solutions.

Acknowledge the severity of our public health crisis

Dr. David Brooks, Chief Medical Officer of Valley View Hospital, told the commissioners back in mid-November, “We need to come together to make some tough decisions about heading off what does look like a progression of cases, hospitalizations, and maxing capacity of the health care system.” Rather than acting on this warning, the commissioners’ only response was to point out the silver lining that our hospitals weren’t over capacity yet.

The commissioners emphasize the false notion that contracting Covid is not a big deal if you’re a young, healthy person. In fact, as the number of Covid cases increase–including people of all ages–the speed of the spread will increase, along with the likelihood that Covid will reach vulnerable members of our community and our hospitals will surpass their capacity to care for Covid and non-Covid patients.

It does indeed matter if young, healthy people get Covid. It’s not just about those folks getting sick for a couple weeks. It’s about them spreading it to others for days before they even realize they’re sick. And it’s about the long-term symptoms that remain for many people of all ages who contract Covid.

We’ve had 830 new cases in just the past two weeks. The county has confirmed 23 Covid-deaths with 6 under investigation. How many deaths will it take before the commissioners acknowledge that we have a major public health problem on our hands?

Follow Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidelines

The CDPHE guidelines are designed by medical science experts working to minimize the number of Covid deaths and hospitalizations. The commissioners’ refusal to abide by these guidelines will come back to haunt us as we see more of our friends die and our hospitals get overwhelmed.

At the two residential care centers in Rifle, 64 residents and 71 staff members have contracted Covid as of Dec. 16. Eleven of those residents have died.

Meanwhile, the commissioners’ comments and actions suggest that they don’t even believe that precautions against spreading Covid are truly necessary. They sit in a room together for hours without wearing masks themselves. They laugh about the fact that the state won’t be able to enforce its limitations on multi-household gatherings. John Martin said he found nothing wrong with five or six guys standing around talking to each other with no masks on.

Tom Jankovsky said Covid is no more deadly than the flu, then retracted that statement a week later. In fact, the numbers aren’t even close: 280,000 Covid-deaths in the US so far vs. 22,000 flu-deaths in 2019-2020. (Centers for Disease Control)

It’s time to follow CDPHE guidelines and reiterate in no uncertain terms that social distancing precautions are essential to the wellbeing of our community.

Invest funds in helping businesses and employees

We urge our commissioners to commit a significant amount of the discretionary funds they have available toward supporting our businesses and employees. They should be pursuing answers to some critical questions: How can we invest in local businesses to help them survive through the pandemic? How can we ensure that employees aren’t so desperate for money that they continue to go into work when they feel sick? How can we help consumers feel safe going out to shop at local businesses? How can we encourage community members to spend more of their dollars at local businesses rather than big box stores and online purchases? How can we invest funds now to ensure a healthy economy once the pandemic subsides?

Work collaboratively

Finding effective solutions to the complex health and economic challenges we’re facing requires input from a variety of perspectives and collaboration with entities across the county — including municipal governments, local financial institutions, and nonprofits. The three commissioners have largely siloed themselves off from the rest of the county, which has led to confusion, ineffectiveness, and a lack of creativity in terms of finding strategies for addressing our current challenges.

We’re all anxious to have this pandemic behind us and get on with our lives. Unfortunately, that won’t happen until we have a wide roll-out of the vaccine. In the meantime, we need to work together to find solutions that will help us mitigate the health and economic impacts of this pandemic as much as possible.

John Krousouloudis is chair and Debbie Bruell is secretary/communications coordinator for the Garfield County Democratic Party.

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