Guest commentary: Honor the losses, celebrate the community as Pitkin County marks one year of COVID-19
On March 5, 2020, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s public health laboratory confirmed the first COVID-19 test result in Colorado. Six days later, the pandemic arrived in Pitkin County with nine visitors from Australia testing positive for COVID-19, the largest outbreak in Colorado at the time.
So started an unprecedented year for our community. This inauspicious anniversary is a time to step back and reflect on the last year and what it has meant for our community — what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained and what the coming year will bring. There is room for sadness, joy and hope in this reflection.
Over the past year there have been nearly 30 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and over 525,000 confirmed deaths. Colorado has had over 433,000 cases and 6,000 deaths, with Pitkin County accounting for over 2,000 cases and four deaths.
All of these numbers are overwhelming and abstract, but not for the impacted families in Pitkin County with an empty seat at the table or those continuing to suffer the long term effects of COVID. Nor are they abstract for all of us that have experienced loss of different magnitudes: lost jobs; a senior year spent online; holiday celebrations without friends and family; canceled travel plans; diminished savings and overdue bills; no live music; missed hugs from our friends — the list is long. Taken together, the losses, big and small, are considerable for all of us, and have put us under unaccustomed levels of emotional and mental stress.
While this is a time of observance for the challenges and loss over the past year, it is also a time to celebrate. Responding to the pandemic has brought out the best in so many of us — donations of talent, time and money have poured in from all sectors of the community to help those most in need. Also important to appreciate is the tireless efforts of those working in health care, public health, human services, and non-profit agencies who have gone to great lengths to meet the extraordinary needs of individuals, families and businesses over the past year.
When we have a chance to take a breath and really evaluate how we responded as a community we will find many lessons learned, and many successes to celebrate. This year has laid bare many issues, and generated many new fissures in our community. Moving forward it is in these issues and fissures that we must find inspiration, opportunities for healing, and cause for hope. Our history is replete with examples of how we pull together following tumultuous times. That will be our call moving forward — taking what we have learned from the pandemic to transcend the impacts and build our community to be even stronger and better than before.
Please join the Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Health in observing one year of pandemic response in Pitkin County. Take time to mourn our losses, hug those you love a little closer and reflect on the good that has and will come out of this difficult year.
Kelly McNicholas Kury, Chair Pitkin County Board of Commissioners; Patti Clapper, Vice Chair Pitkin County Board of Commissioners; Markey Butler, Chair Pitkin County Board of Health; Greg Poschman, Vice Chair Pitkin County Board of Health and County Commissioner.
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