County Update: COVID-19, 1 year ago
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A year ago, on March 13, the Routt County Board of Commissioners officially declared a state of emergency in response to the spread of COVID-19. I don’t think any of us at that time could have imagined the full scope of the impacts the pandemic would visit upon vulnerable populations, businesses, students and the economy. Here in Routt County alone, over 1,800 people have tested positive for the virus and, tragically, at least 19 of our friends and neighbors have died. Sometimes, statistics obscure the real pain and suffering of people in our community.
But now, as vaccines become increasingly available and case counts fall, we can begin to look ahead to the summer when we will hopefully be able to resume normal activities. Families will be able to reunite, businesses can resume normal operations, and we will finally be able to share a meal with good friends. Most importantly, our kids will be able to resume full-time in-person learning and participation in essential extracurricular activities.
We have learned a number of lessons from the pandemic. We now better understand the critical role a robust public health system plays in our community. While our ability to respond to a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic is crucial, so too is our capacity to support the health of our citizens across a broad range of needs. Over the next several months, our public health officials will continue to focus on distributing vaccines, testing individuals for the coronavirus and doing everything they can to bring this pandemic under control. At the same time, they are anxious to refocus their efforts on suicide prevention, childhood immunizations, maternal health, health education and surveillance and response to other diseases.
I have been gratified to see the ability of our schools, businesses, governmental and nonprofit entities and our citizens adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic. We recognize these impacts have not been evenly distributed. In particular, many of our schoolchildren have been deprived of a year of in-person education and participation in activities. We must not only work to get our kids back in school but find ways to help these students catch up. And we need to continue to provide support for businesses and employees that have lost income and jobs.
As the end of the pandemic comes into view, we can now get back to work on the myriad issues we face in Routt County. We worked hard during the pandemic to continue to provide basic services to our citizens. We can now look forward to working on an update to our Master Plan, addressing affordable housing, extending broadband to our outlying areas, improving our transportation systems, mitigating wildfires and working to support our citizens that may be struggling with mental health or substance-abuse challenges.
The pandemic created real problems in our community. We saw the discord that public health orders could cause and widely diverse opinions on how best to address the pandemic. Fortunately, here in Routt County, our citizens were able to come together — even if we didn’t fully agree — and worked together to control the pandemic. We have learned a lot, and I look forward to applying those lessons to our ongoing challenges.
Tim Corrigan is chairperson of the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
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