Meeting in Glenwood gives voice to dissatisfaction with coronavirus orders
An unofficial meeting Monday brought a crowd of about 50 people to express discontent with how Glenwood Springs is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nearly hour-and-a-half gathering, which took place on the sidewalk south of A La Carte on Grand Avenue starting at 5 p.m., featured eight speakers — including politicians, business owners, citizens and a former medical researcher — from nearby communities as well as Eagle County.
Several speakers mentioned the recent City Council executive session in which council members speak harshly of potential ordinance violators. A recording of the session has been made available to the public.
Emcee Sherronna Bishop of Silt opened the event and introduced each speaker. She began by agreeing with the initial steps taken in response to the disease.
“We did comply, and it was the right thing to do,” she said.
But, echoing the sentiments of the crowd, she said that with what we know now, it’s time to change the perception that those who want to ease the restrictions are uncaring.
“I want to take away that shaming that we’re killing people and we don’t care about anybody. That’s false, and it’s fake news,” she said.
Bishop, CEO of All About Looks Image & Spa Co., also claimed that while the lockdown is intended to keep people healthy, it is causing increased rates of depression and child abuse.
Michelle Boleware of Rifle was an impromptu speaker. She related that she has more to worry about from random germs than most people.
“My immune system was damaged from chemotherapy. … I live with the reality every day that anything I touch could have germs. I take precautions that exceed the precautions of regular society,” she said.
Yet she sees her health as her responsibility.
“It will always be my responsibility to take extra precautions for myself. It is not the health department’s responsibility to take care of me,” she said.
She went on to say that she doesn’t want businesses to suffer on her account.
“People want to help people like me, but I don’t want your businesses to shut down.”
Glenwood Springs City Councilor Tony Hershey charmed the audience by mentioning how his mother was not happy he used the f-word in reference to his fellow councilors in the executive session.
“That tape was not my best moment,” he said.
As for dissatisfaction with government officials, “We can make a change the next election,” he said.
He said the nation is done with shutdowns.
“Every time this disease comes back are we going to shut down again?” he asked. “There’s no way we can shut down our country again; the people won’t put up with it. We shut down to flatten the curve, but then they moved the goalposts on you.”
Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, “When I heard the tape of the [Glenwood City Council] executive session I didn’t sleep that night. It made me angry.”
He said council made a false assumption that Garfield County was “going rogue” and was going to open all businesses.
He did express his support for that concept.
“We need to get 100% of our businesses open,” he said.
But accomplishing that requires a controlled approach.
“A lot of you like to say, ‘Let’s let the whole county go rogue,’” but that is not the right approach, he said.
COVID-19 must still be taken seriously, he said, referencing an attendee holding a sign that read “2 of my friends are dead from Covid19.”
“It is important that we still understand that it is a virus and does affect those who are older and have health issues and who have compromised immune systems,” he said.
As a member of the county board of health, he admitted, “I’m kind of the enemy in some cases.”
Monica Wolny, co-owner of Hanging Lake Inn, was particularly unhappy that Glenwood Springs put restrictions on lodging.
“Gov. (Jared) Polis said I’m essential, but my town said I’m not essential,” she said.
Wolny, who handed out annotated notes from the executive session, said, “We elect people in government, and they should be working for us.”
“I’m one voice that stands for every small business,” she said.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Polis’ health orders are legal. The problem may be that the governor has too much power.
“What the governor is doing is not violating the law as the law is. But he has too much power. I’m not singling out the governor; it would be the same if he were Republican. We have got to pull back some of that authority,” he said.
Vallario is not in favor of a law enforcement-driven approach to coronavirus health orders.
“Anybody who doesn’t wear a mask in certain conditions is committing a crime. It puts law enforcement in the middle and makes us the bad guy,” he said.
Vallario said there’s nothing wrong with lawful protests and related a story about that.
“A lawyer once asked me, ‘How can you encourage civil disobedience?’ If we never push back we never change,” he said.
Silt trustee Sam Walls agreed with Bishop that the early coronavirus precautions were the right thing to do.
But “once we saw that it wasn’t as dangerous and damaging as we thought it would be,” it was time to open up.
“Businesses can open up at 50%, but their billing is still at 100%. Let’s stand up for these businesses,” he said.
An attendee, who declined to speak with the newspaper, asked Walls, “What do we do when our city council is germaphobes?”
“We gotta stop letting them push us around,” Walls responded.
Heather Berge, a former medical researcher from Eagle County, focused her comments on how masks will not protect the wearer from COVID-19.
“There’s no basis in science for wearing masks. … Masks were never designed to stop viruses. It’s like me standing behind a chainlink fence and somebody shooting at me and thinking it will stop the bullet,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control website says that the point of wearing masks is to protect others, not the wearer, and that it’s a tool that is most effective when a majority of the population wears them.
“Cloth face coverings may … help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others,” the website says.
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