Our View: Reopening brings optimism — and pressure to get it right
It’s impossible not to share the sense of cautious optimism in our community right now when it comes to business.
With restaurants serving people in-house, hotels opening for guests and our major attractions once again serving locals and visitors alike, it feels as if life in Garfield County is closer to normal than it’s been since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year.
Getting to this point didn’t happen by accident. It required the diligence and hard work of many organizations and government officials. From Rifle to Carbondale, our local chambers of commerce have helped businesses weather the pandemic storm — and plan for the other side.
Folks throughout the community have also worked tirelessly to craft plans for reopening while also keeping people safe and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
The work of Garfield County Public Health might be unappreciated by some, but they truly deserve our thanks for the work they’ve done in crafting plans to allow for economic activity to return even as the pandemic continues.
But the work of everyone mentioned above — as well as so many others — will be for nothing if we don’t act responsibly. The biggest challenge is the pandemic has become yet another divisive political issue. We recognize the futility of telling people how they should view the pandemic one way or another — even the members of this board aren’t in agreement — but we can’t help but worry that the stakes are too high to be cavalier about the risk throughout the pandemic.
Many states that reopened earlier than Colorado are seeing significant increases in COVID-19 cases, including Florida, California, Texas and more.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be reopening — and it definitely doesn’t mean we shut everything down again. Frankly, we as a society have decided the shutdown is over, and trying to roll back to the peak of closures and stay-at-home orders we saw in March would do nothing productive.
What it does mean, however, is we need to take things seriously. Even if we have our doubts about the lethality, contagiousness or anything else about COVID-19, we should err on the side of caution. That means practicing social distancing whenever possible and wearing a mask when it isn’t — or where a mask is required by state or local health orders.
Masks are uncomfortable on so many levels. They make it difficult to read the emotions of others, they get hot in our summertime climate, they scratch and itch. Perhaps most of all, they are a stark image of things not being normal — and we all very desperately want to return to normal.
The truth is we don’t have a normal to go back to. Social, economic and health impacts from COVID-19 will likely be with us for the foreseeable future. Recognizing that means doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19, not just for public health but for our local businesses and the economy.
There has been some really, really bad communication through all of this from government officials on multiple levels, and the World Health Organization’s muddled messaging on the effectiveness of masks is just one more example of how that institution in particular has failed the world during the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci recently reconfirmed and admitted the government essentially lied to the American public when it first said masks weren’t effective. They did so to stop a rush on people buying them up so front line services could have them.
But more and more evidence is coming out showing that masks can be an effective tool in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. One particularly interesting story came out of Missouri last week when two hairstylists who worked while symptomatic with COVID-19 exposed nearly 150 people. Yet no one else became ill, and local health officials say it’s a stark example of how masks can allow people to do business while staying safe in the pandemic. This lines up perfectly with the advice and information provided from our local experts at Garfield County Public Health.
But even if that doesn’t satisfy your doubts about the coronavirus, consider this. Let’s say you don’t think masks are effective so you don’t wear one. If you’re correct, no harm done. If you’re wrong, you could expose not just yourself but others … and another potential shutdown could occur. And Garfield County businesses simply cannot afford that.
Regardless of what we say, however, we understand there are many who remain unconvinced on wearing masks. But if there was ever a situation where it made sense to err on the side of caution, this is it.
The Post Independent editorial board consists of Publisher Jerry Raehal, Editor Peter Baumann and Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud.
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