Our View: Service under duress | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Service under duress

Last week, Routt County commissioners rolled back COVID-19 restrictions to their lowest level in almost a year. The decision was made during Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting, and it was based on declining case counts, a low positivity rate and a high vaccination rate.

The move is something to celebrate. The positive data that prompted the loosening of restrictions is a direct result of the tough decisions made by our local public health officials and a concerted effort from the majority of the population to comply with these rules for the greater good.

Under incredible pressure and buffeted by state and national guidance that changed frequently, local public health officials were resolute, following the science and the data, and leading our community through unfamiliar terrain. Fighting a pandemic was something no one was prepared for, and a public health threat of this magnitude required decisive action, which our local leaders provided.

Their commitment to fighting COVID-19 was unwavering even when it put them in the crosshairs of those who called into question their motives and chose to attack them for the protocols they put into place.

It boggles the mind when people accuse the public health director, chief medical officer and epidemiologists of creating regulations to further some hidden agenda. They aren’t receiving kickbacks from communist China, and they aren’t requiring masks in some nefarious plot to steal people’s freedom. They are just doing their jobs in the service of public health and safety, and it’s time to commend them for their efforts, not vilify them. This commendation includes the leadership provided by our county commissioners, who led the public health charge and followed the lead of local health professionals in establishing COVID-19 health protocols.

At a glance

At issue: Routt County rolled back restrictions last week, leaving just the mask mandate in place.

Our View: This easing of health protocols is a reason to celebrate, and our local public health officials deserve praise for their hard work during trying times.

Editorial Board

• Logan Molen, publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Marion Kahn, community representative

• Laraine Martin, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

This has been a year of uncertainty, isolation and hardship for many, and it’s too bad the wearing of masks and the hope offered by effective and available vaccines have been politicized. Some of this, in our opinion, can be attributed to the lack of a strong national pandemic response, and without clear direction from the federal level, more pressure fell on the shoulders of local authorities to create a plan to combat a deadly virus.

When you stop to look back on the past year, Routt County’s rapid response to the pandemic is pretty miraculous when you consider the county’s sole public health employee last March was a public health director it shared with neighboring Moffat County. The task at hand proved too large for one part-time employee, and within a few short months, the county had recruited an impressive group of public health employees with years of experience and knowledge they generously shared with the community.

This level of response required public health officials to work long hours under an incredible amount of stress and strain. Almost every member of the public health team reported working 80-hour weeks during the height of the pandemic when cases were soaring. These health professionals served as our local experts, stuck to the science and were proactive rather than reactive to the pandemic’s changing landscape and their efforts were successful.

The numbers help prove the effectiveness of Routt County’s response to COVID-19. To date, the county’s COVID-19 case count stands at 2,185 cases, which equates to just over 8,525 cases per 100,000. Other Western Slope counties, like Grand, Garfield, Eagle, Summit and Pitkin, all have higher cases per 100,000, with Pitkin being one of the highest in the state at close to 14,524 cases per 100,000.

In addition, Routt County has recorded relatively low resident hospitalizations and deaths with 36 and 20 respectively. And when it comes to vaccination rates, Routt County is a statewide leader, ranking seventh in the state with 69% of the population having received the first dose of the vaccine.

These relatively low numbers do not support claims that health protocols were not necessary. Instead, we believe the data points to how well the local public health orders worked, both from the policy-making perspective and public commitment to containment of the virus. It took many entities working together to navigate the past year, and we, as a community, should be proud of getting to a place where “normal” seems like a possibility again. And while we celebrate what’s been achieved, we must never forget the damaging effects of the pandemic on businesses, individuals and organizations or the lessons learned along the way.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind residents and visitors to remain vigilant and not let their guards down. We’ve come this far, and we’d hate to see us backtrack in any way due to a relaxing of hygiene efforts and other behaviors that helped reduce the spread of the virus in the first place.

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