From the publisher: Come on, Aspen, we can do better at this distancing thing |

From the publisher: Come on, Aspen, we can do better at this distancing thing

Samantha Johnston
The Aspen Times
Samantha Johnston
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

There is nothing more beautiful than the start of a bluebird day first over Independence Pass, slowly hitting Smuggler Mountain, making its way to Aspen and Shadow mountains and finally lighting up Aspen Highlands, those beautiful Bells and Buttermilk. There’s also nothing quite like a bluebird day to stir the cabin fever that sets in during a normal time; the desire to blow the cobwebs out is even greater now that we’re cooped up with no real end in sight.

Now is the time to double down on our efforts to stay healthy — and at home.

I live in a condominium complex in downtown Aspen. In the past week, I’ve seen so many examples of social distancing while caring for friends. I have been a recipient of such kindness recently when my neighbors on a different floor sent a text that said, “Check your ski rack.” There was a batch of their famous cosmopolitans. We didn’t speak. We didn’t see each other. I didn’t feel any less loved or cared for. And I poured the pink goodness into a glass to toast my Aspen Times colleagues over our daily virtual happy half hour.

Unfortunately, in the past week, I have also seen examples of how it only takes a few people to make worse what is already really bad.

On Wednesday, I hiked Smuggler Mountain as I frequently do. When I reached the observation deck, there were three people waiting for their turn on the deck, all spaced about 10 feet apart. Nearby at the bench, a group of young people — I counted 13 — were seated on each other’s laps, arms draped across shoulders posing for a group picture as young friends do — or as we did before COVID-19 demanded something different. There’s no group selfie worth more than the health of our community.

Yesterday, a neighbor in a unit below mine had a friend over. They sat on the patio and listened to music and shared stories as friends do — or as we did before COVID-19 demanded something different. They don’t live together. Sheltering in someone else’s place isn’t sheltering in place. Stay home means stay home.

A friend of mine who lives in the Denver area posted on FB asking his friends if it was OK to go camping as long as they were “socially distant.” I shared my opinion, which is that “stay at home” and “social distancing” aren’t the same thing, but you must practice both. Our state has been pretty clear — if you need to drive to the park down the street, carry on. But driving to the mountains or the desert unless you already live there is a firm no. In case it wasn’t clear, stay home means stay home. Your own home. Your own town.

By all accounts, “social distancing” is a conscious effort to reduce close contact with others and it seems to be working in the places where it is practiced aggressively. The stay-at-home means only leaving home for essential activities.

Does this really suck? You bet your expensive mountain bike and camp stove it does. But this isn’t forever. It’s for now. And we can all do our part for now.

Now, the governor has asked Colorado residents to wear a mask when in public. This has been the hardest part for me. It feels silly and weird. It’s not hard to understand the reasoning; it’s hard not to smile at people and stop to talk and ask how their old dog is doing, or whether their husband’s new job is going well or what they’re up to this weekend. We know — we’re all as fine as fine can be and nobody has any big damn plans this weekend. It’s OK. We’ll have plans again, and we’ll smile again without a mask covering our face and we’ll stop to talk without being 10 feet apart. We will. If we do our part now.

Please don’t make our police officers and sheriff’s deputies enforce the rules. Police yourselves. Our first responders are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 by virtue of the job they agree to do when they get up every morning and report for duty. Putting these men and women at higher risk because you’re selfish is inexcusable behavior. A little personal sacrifice today ensures a much brighter tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, here are the first five things I’m looking forward to doing when we’re all back in business: Eating jalapeno poppers at Mi Chola, carefully walking the Hot Picks shelves at Pitkin County Library and choosing a good weekend read for a sunny Saturday, getting a pedicure at Ultimate Salon, hopping back on a bike for a.m. spin at CycleBar and hiking to the top of Aspen Mountain for a glass of prosecco and a gondola ride down.

Do your part. Even if it sucks or feels silly or makes us get back into the car after grocery shopping and cry all the way home (which I did), we need to do our part. We pride ourselves on community, on caring for others as much as we care for ourselves. It’s time to put our money where our mouths are.

Stay home. Stay apart. Stay connected.

We’ve got this, Aspen. Let’s look out for each other and push past this thing.

Samantha Johnston is the publisher of The Aspen Times.


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