Elizabeth Milias: Let’s get this Aspen party started
The Red Ant
You know it’s been an eventful week in quarantine when you’ve listened in on several public meetings including the Pitkin County board of health, cleaned out your closets and celebrated with a road trip to Wal-Mart.
We have collectively done a bang-up job of staying home and protecting ourselves over the past six weeks, despite having no clue how many people here have been sick. As for leadership and decisions, many of our electeds simply defer to appointed bureaucrats and state leaders, while others proselytize on social media and advocate government bailouts.
FACT: Our stay-at-home order has not — I repeat not — been to eliminate the virus from our community. It has been to slow the spread to levels that do not exceed the capacity of our local health care system. And we have managed to avoid a tidal wave of cases that could have overwhelmed our limited resources. As a result, Aspen Valley Hospital has had time to create, enact and fine-tune its strategy to fight the virus and stock up on critical supplies.
The virus exists, and it’s not going anywhere.
FACT: While the rate of spread has slowed just like our economy, it will indeed ramp up when we leave our homes and welcome “outsiders” back to Aspen. That’s the reality of the situation. We cannot keep the virus out.
The goal moving forward is to acquire what’s called “herd immunity,” where so many people in a community become immune to an infectious disease that it stops the disease from spreading.
FACT: There is only one way to acquire herd immunity today and that’s for people to obtain the antibodies as a result of having the virus. At some point, there may be a vaccine, but for now it doesn’t exist. Without immunity, one remains vulnerable to the virus.
I heard this from the board of health’s chief medical officer, the impressive Dr. Kim Levin, who also is a physician in our local ER. Thank you, Dr. Levin, for your wisdom, your plain-speak and for clarifying what all the bureaucrats are afraid to say: While the gradual loosening of public health orders will certainly lead to more cases, this is exactly what we must do.
As we tip-toe around which steps to take locally when the current public health order to stay at home expires April 30, recent discussions ultimately yielded a reprieve for bike shops and office supply stores, golf courses, landscapers and construction sites, but not without intense debates about capping holes on the greens so people won’t have to reach in for their golf balls and stringent requirements for temperature-taking and hand-washing at construction sites. At this rate, we might be open by Christmas.
The hot topic remains testing. The focus today is on whether you currently have the virus. But have you managed to get tested and been found to have the antibodies? Lucky you. The current assumption is that if you have the antibodies, you’re safe now and can carry on.
But if you don’t, then what?
It’s pretty straightforward. You are going to have to take personal responsibility and make some difficult choices. On one hand, you know what’s worked to this point in time so you can continue to do that, but that doesn’t get you out of the house and back to work. On the other hand, knowing you’re vulnerable and going “out there” definitely presents a conundrum. These are not decisions the government is going to make for you for much longer. The government cannot keep the virus out, nor can it keep everyone healthy. Aspen the nanny state would love to monitor you, your health, temperature and whereabouts in real time, as well as those of our visitors, but this isn’t China.
Next weekend, when the public health order expires, it’s time to lay out rational and actionable steps to get this resort tourism economy moving. If it’s OK to shop at City Market, then it should be OK to shop at all retail stores in Aspen. If we’re allowing construction workers past our pearly gates, then we shouldn’t quarantine second-home owners. Our hospital is operating well below capacity so let’s start scheduling elective procedures. As the weather improves, outdoor dining becomes increasingly viable for shuttered restaurants. Dog-grooming services are the first step toward personal ones. And as for lodges and hotels, many are closed as planned for offseason, but for those that wish to open, let them. Again, how is any of this much different from shopping at Wal-Mart?
In short, elected officials, let’s look for ways to open up, not for reasons to stay closed.
Put your mask on, social distance and let’s get out and about!
Email at TheRedAntEM@comcast.net
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Some days, I miss being back in the saddle. I miss making memories.