Our view: What is an acceptable level of risk?
COVID-19 cases are spiking in Routt County, across Colorado and the country. Locally, positive case totals have increased to 399, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, with a record-breaking 70 cases reported last week, and we now find ourselves bracing for another shutdown like we experienced last spring if the spread of the virus can’t be slowed.
In response to the explosion in positive cases, a new SOS campaign has been launched. SOS stands for Save Our Season/Stop Our Spread, and the movement is aimed at trying to save the 2020-21 ski season through widespread adoption of habits that reduce the spread of COVID-19. Organizers hope the effort will serve as a rallying cry to inspire every member of the community to work together to prevent further restrictions that will impact the winter tourism season.
“Now, we are turning to the community at large and asking for the support of everyone who lives in Steamboat and Routt County to change social behavior to reduce close contacts,” said Robin Craigen, one of the SOS organizers. “Cutting down on the probability of community transmission is our primary goal.”
Specifically, the SOS initiative is asking community members to follow three main guidelines:
• Dine out as a family group, not with other families.
• Keep Thanksgiving celebrations small and limited to immediate family in one household with no outside guests.
• Refrain from hosting any parties or group gatherings.
At issue: COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise, and Routt County could be faced with another shutdown if community spread is not slowed.
Our View: The new SOS movement and plans to increase enforcement of public health orders are smart moves, but the community must be prepared to have hard discussions about acceptable risk if these efforts are not enough to save the ski season and keep businesses open.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Kevin Fisher, community representative
• George Danellis, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
The recent rise in cases can be linked, in part, to a private Halloween party that caused Steamboat Springs High School to revert to remote online learning when 325 students and 25 teachers had to be quarantined in the party’s aftermath.
This superspreader event has led to calls for stronger enforcement of the county’s public health orders, and we think that response makes sense, especially if the punishment is reasonable and not heavy handed. It’s time to crack down on people who willfully disregard local health protocols, and hopefully, increased enforcement will go a long way toward increased compliance with rules that exist to protect our public health.
Right now, Routt County’s case count puts us in the stay-at-home level, according to the state’s dial framework that commissioners adopted Friday, and with that in mind, we think it’s important for the community to be realistic and ask itself: What reasonable risk are we willing to accept to save the ski season and keep our economy open?
We support the SOS campaign as well as increased enforcement of public health orders. The aim of both is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but what if it isn’t enough to get us to where we need to be to avoid another shutdown?
Gov. Jared Polis told The Denver Post two days ago that he is hesitant to issue another statewide stay-at-home order like he did last spring, even though rising case counts seem to dictate it.
“It’s unfair to ask people not to be able to pay rent and put food on the table,” Polis told the Post. “That’s not a reasonable ask of Coloradans.”
This desire to avoid a shutdown and keep the economy open may require changing the state-level metrics that determine restrictions counties must abide by. And then, if metrics are loosened at the state level to allow ski resorts to operate and businesses to stay open, will county commissioners follow suit or adopt stricter regulations than the state?
These are questions and scenarios that need to be considered and discussions our community should be ready to have. It’s imperative we remain nimble and continue to question ourselves about the acceptable level of risk we’re ready to adopt if our best behaviors aren’t enough to reduce spread of the virus. It’s also a good time for individual members of the community to let county leaders know how you feel they should balance the economic well-being of our community with public safety. Your opinion matters, and it could help inform future decisions made by local leaders.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020