Learning by doing. It’s the way of life when working on big water projects — or in small 4-H clubs.
It’s the process of being adaptable when faced with changing situations and new knowledge. It’s a way of learning from best practices, making adjustments midstream and collaborating with partners to achieve the best outcome. And it’s how we’ve been working at Eagle County since the first COVID-19 case was reported on March 5, learning from science and public health, working with our peers, testing strategies — learning by doing.
When we checked in, last week we reported that we were relying on the community to maintain the “Five Commitments of Containment”: staying 6 feet apart, washing hands frequently, wearing a face covering in public, not going to work if sick and getting tested immediately when symptoms appear.
However, the only constant during this pandemic has been change, and we believe circumstances have changed enough that we must take stronger measures. As we move into the black diamond phase, we are continuing the same mask guidance (face coverings to be worn in public spaces indoors and outdoors if 6 feet of social distance can’t be maintained), but making that direction mandatory instead of recommended. This action will bring consistency to all towns (including Basalt and El Jebel) and unincorporated areas of Eagle County on these protective measures and will better align with most of our neighboring communities.
Based on the rapid rate of disease spread nationally and regionally and the large influx of visitors to our area, this is the direction we must go to protect the health and welfare of our residents. In the big picture, we need to get successfully to the fall and reopen schools, keep our businesses running, and gear up for ski season.
What we don’t want, and can’t afford, is to go back to the stay-at-home phase with businesses shuttered. The economic, social, and mental health toll is too high. Our priorities are to maintain testing capacity, protect our supply chains, ensure robust contact tracing, contain known infections, and enlist the community to work together for long-term success. We feel we’re positioned well in Eagle County to achieve those priority goals.
We’re also rolling out a huge visitor education campaign, instructing people how to “Come Well, Stay Well, Leave Well.” Messages will be at the airport, on bus transit, in hotel rooms, on door hangers, on variable message boards, and on sandwich boards within towns and communities. These messages will reinforce our “Five Commitments of Containment” and let people know what the local culture and expectations are.
On this Independence Day weekend, we ask you all, residents and guests, to honor our communities by taking these simple steps to protect our neighbors and our businesses.
It’s not a political statement, it’s for our physical and mental health and our economy. Our freedoms are founded on sacrifice for the greater good, and by continuing to move forward together we will learn to meet every new challenge with knowledge, courage and strength.
The Eagle County commissioners are Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jeanne McQueeney and Matt Scherr.