(April 6, 2020)
Dear San Miguel County,
We knew going into this that we serve some of the most wonderfully resilient and creative communities in the West. A month ago, as we faced the uncertainty of an approaching pandemic, we knew we would all have to support each other to get through it. But the depth of the challenge was not clear. We could not have imagined the extreme actions that would be necessary.
San Miguel County, along with other mountain resort communities that host spring break travelers, was poised at the front lines in Colorado. We realized early that we either had to respond with strict measures or face massive numbers of COVID-19 cases. Public health was paramount.
At every step of the way, community support has been amazing. The only way we will flatten our local epidemiological curve is through our actions. The public orders issued by our public health director, with the full support of the county commissioners, is the legal framework, but our social contract with each other is even more critical. Every action we take has the potential to save a life. This is tough to assimilate: We need to pay the bills; the skiing is good; we have friends we’d like to see. However, every action that overlaps with someone outside our immediate family—perhaps as simple as touching a doorknob and not washing our hands—could make a difference.
To those who are part of our extended communities but may not live here full time, we want you to know that we value you, but unless San Miguel county is your true psychological home, your place is not here now. The most important thing you can do for this community, and maybe for you and your family, is to stay where you are. To those who visit, we will one day again welcome and depend on you to rebuild our economy. Right now, we ask you to stay away. This is not about living in fear. Fear and doubt are the enemy. This is about recognizing that we have a choice and our choices at this time can save lives.
We also have the choice to find opportunities in this new reality and to make the best of what we have. Our attitudes will make a huge difference. This virus does not discriminate. Change will be difficult for many of us. It will affect us all and last longer than any of us wish. We will experience loss personally and as a community.
Yet we are already seeing our local businesses adapt by moving into local food distribution, making masks and hand sanitizer, entertaining virtually, and educating students in new and innovative ways. Colorado manufacturers and others around the U.S. are retrofitting machines to provide essential medical equipment and supplies. A regional financial recovery organization is providing immediate resources for those in need and developing long term ideas. A local medical parts distributor has generously helped us form a purchasing pool comprised of Colorado counties to order masks for counties, rural hospitals and tribes and recently donated 16,000 masks to the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes. And we are the first in the U.S. to access community-wide testing because our friends and neighbors saw an opportunity to help and generously jumped in.
We are inspired by all of you. Our deep appreciation goes to those to those on the front lines as well. Our healthcare providers are true heroes. Please remember our actions also keep them safe. Our first responders organized an incredibly smooth, community-wide testing process on short notice and continue to keep us safe. Our essential businesses and restaurants are using safe actions to provide our needs throughout this crisis. We thank all the volunteers who are offering much-needed help in a variety of ways. And last, but not least, we are blown away by the professionalism, dedication and compassion of our county staff, who are serving far beyond their job descriptions.
At some point, this pandemic will be over. When we emerge, we will have the collective opportunity to rebuild. We encourage you all to take this opportunity to rethink and reimagine what we want life to be in the new normal. Thank you all for making daily sacrifices and maintaining physical distancing while nurturing social connections. It has never been more clear that we are all connected—locally, nationally and globally.
San Miguel County Board of Commissioners & Board of Public Health