From the publisher: Our role in community is sifting through the noise, confusion | AspenTimes.com
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From the publisher: Our role in community is sifting through the noise, confusion

Samantha Johnston
The Aspen Times

Perhaps the only thing more dangerous than the rampant spread of disease through a community is the spread of misinformation that can be hard to track down and contain.

With the update Thursday that 10 people in Aspen have tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, news pinpointing Aspen as having the one of the highest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the state and the city of Aspen declaring emergency, we know that our readers are depending on us now, more than ever. We are here to ask the tough questions, relentlessly seek answers, wade through confusion and conflicting information and provide updates from local, state and federal agencies.

We know that the distrust of mainstream media is at an all-time high and that fact and fiction can be hard to sort out in a sea of opinions disguised as facts. We are committed to sifting through the noise and providing accurate, timely and relevant information about COVID-19 and, most importantly, how it will impact our community today and in the coming weeks and months. There is a lot of speculation about everything from where presumptive positive COVID-19 carriers spent time in Aspen to whether Aspen Skiing Co. will suspend mountain operations. We are working quickly to answer these questions, but the fact remains that the information pipeline from federal, state and local officials is trickling slowly at best and we simply don’t have all of the answers we need or want.

You may notice that we monitor social media posts on our stories more closely and that we hide or remove comments that claim facts we can’t verify, are based on rumors or hearsay or that add to hysteria rather than educate and inform. Community dialogue and discussion is important, but we won’t allow our platforms to be a breeding ground for panic based on opinion.

We encourage our community to come together, as it always does. But for now, that means staying apart. Pitkin County officials announced Thursday that they will recommend an “aggressive social distancing” protocol for our community and in a news release late Thursday said events with more than 50 attendees are prohibited (with some exceptions).

Respect social distancing protocols and avoid large gatherings where you could come in contact with the virus, but even more important, where you could unknowingly give the virus to someone with a weakened immune system. Nobody fully understands the level of “community spread” in our valley yet, but erring on the side of caution might help and certainly can’t hurt. Check on each other’s mental health — social distancing can be very tough on some and fear of the unknown, major change in routines and a feeling of helplessness can certainly take hold in uncertain times. Connect however you can.

We call on local businesses and community organizations to be transparent and responsible.

We know that our local businesses will suffer. People may be less likely to frequent their favorite restaurant. Concerts are or will be canceled. Community events such as church services or lectures could be video-only. We encourage you to be innovative and creative in thinking about how to support community … from a distance. Use food delivery services such as Around Aspen for restaurant deliveries or InstaCart for grocery deliveries; consider purchasing a T-shirt or downloading a song from your favorite band if the concert gets canceled (you already bought the ticket, so repurpose that money when you get it back); check out Pitkin County Library’s vast array of online resources for reading, movies and education. And all of this is great to keep handy for a time when coronavirus isn’t the topic of conversation, but you’re laid up with a common cold or a torn ACL.

The Aspen Times has a page dedicated to coronavirus on our homepage at aspentimes.com/coronavirus. This page contains all of our COVID-19 coverage as well as links to all local, state and federal resources. We will also try to answer community questions daily in print and online about anything and everything you want to know. To submit a question (of us or government officials) please send us a message via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or email news@aspentimes.com.

If you see a way that we can better connect with the community or better serve you, I’m all ears. I can be reached at sjohnston@aspentimes.com or my mobile at 720-412-4240.

For now, let’s do what we do best — take care of each other by supporting local businesses as much as we can, checking in on one another frequently and taking individual responsibility for health and safety. I’m a hugger, so this will be game-changing for me, but in the spirit of human connection and saving the species, I’ll throw you an elbow bump next time I see you.

Samantha Johnston is the publisher of The Aspen Times.


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