Letter: How to stay safe and be thankful
While this is a very tumultuous and challenging time, there are some very important things for which we can be thankful. First and foremost, we control our own destiny regarding the spread of COVID-19 in our area. This is an incredibly important point: how heavily Steamboat Springs is affected by the virus depends on the actions of us, the citizens of Steamboat. This is good news.
Next, unlike terrorist attacks, natural disasters, school shootings and other catastrophic events that can decimate a family, a community or a nation without warning, we have models of what not to do (Italy), as well as what to do (Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan). We are not flying blind. This is also good.
These are not computer simulations or unfounded, wild speculations of false hope or calamity from politicians (Republician or Democrat) or the media (left or right); these are working, real-world case studies, and we need to heed their lessons carefully. New York was slow to adopt social distancing and they are paying the price. That area is rapidly approaching disaster, the likes of which has never been seen in this country and this will happen in Steamboat if we don’t all get 100% onboard with hand washing and social distancing. Now. It is imperative that we learn from their mistakes.
COVID-19 is already in Steamboat and thanks to a massively bungled early response on the national level, the country has very little testing, so until this changes, our only option is to assume that every single person has the virus.This may sound scary, but the fact that we don’t yet have a major outbreak here means we can still control this disease with everyone social distancing. But our response needs to involve everyone.
And it needs to involve everyone, because the stakes are incredibly high and the margins are thin. Steamboat’s hospital has a total of 39 beds and seven ventilators, two of which are for transporting people to Level 1 trauma centers. This leaves us with only five. This is not a knock on our hospital, in fact, we are probably better positioned than most towns this size, but the reality is that no hospital in the US (or the world, for that matter), is designed to handle an enormous influx of critical care patients, so it is up to us to control this.
What these hospital capacity numbers do illustrate, very clearly, is just how close we are to disaster here in our home town: only a small outbreak, and our hospital would be full. Not only would this be devastating for all additional COVID-19 patients, but it will also be catastrophic for all other non-virus related emergencies such as motor vehicle accidents, heart attacks, sports injuries, accidents at home/work, etc. If our hospital system is overloaded, which is already happening in NYC, all types of medical care will dangerously compromised, even non-emergency care such as child birth and all types of interventions to health people, so don’t think for one second that this will not impact you, even if you do not have the virus.
To be clear, this is not cause for panic, rather an urgent call for action. Our hospital is not at this level yet, but based on the real-world examples listed above, we will get to this crisis level if we do not respond better than other regions areas have. This disease is not political. It is not cultural. It is a highly contagious virus that spreads through human contact, so to continue to keep Steamboat safe, we need to work together like never before — ironically by staying apart — to control this pandemic in our town. Remember, we control our own destiny and the better we are, the safer we are. This is more good news.
As the reports of the terrible situations in New York City and the hardest-hit spots continue to worsen, let’s use this as fuel and motivation to strengthen our efforts to ensure that this does not happen here. I love this town and have great faith in its people, so the fact that our actions dictate our future gives me great hope.
I believe in this community, and I’m optimistic that we’re all going to pull together like never before to do the right things now to minimize the impact of this terrible pandemic in Steamboat before it is too late.
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Since late January, there have been 22 avalanche deaths in America across 16 incidents in nine states, including many in Colorado. It’s been one of the most deadly periods in recorded history.